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2 July 2012 Edition

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Sing when we’re (not) winning


I found myself coming more around to Keano’s point of view as I trawled through some of the cringeworthy crock of nonsense around the whole business

AS THE MATCH against Italy drew to a close, the strains of The Fields of Athenry could be discerned in the background, drifting from the stands and into the Polish night air.

I was watching the denouement in a certain hostelry and what struck me was that everyone seemed determined to ignore the latest and final display of Irish fortitude and stoutness in the face of adversity.

Perhaps it was all becoming  a bit like the little boy whose charming party piece begins to pall and even become something of an embarrassment and he starts to be ignored by the adults.

Of course, only days before, a virtual cultural Civil War had been ignited with one Roy Keane (late of Cork and Ipswich) once again at the epicentre of hostilities.

Speaking after Ireland’s 4-0 defeat by Spain, Roy had rounded not only on the players but seemingly also on the supporters. We ought not be content with turning up at competitions ‘for a sing-song’, he said.

Cue national outrage. Of course, Roy had already won his place in the pantheon of national hate figures following his ‘betrayal’ of the Boys in Green in Saipan when he departed from the World Cup 1994 camp on foot of his excoriation of Mick McCarthy’s professionalism. Or rather lack of same quality, in Roy’s eyes.

His perceived rounding on the leprechaun-attired, plastic hammer waving, wiess bier guzzling balladeers of Gdansk was greeted with the sort of horror normally reserved for the aunt who performs Patricia the Stripper at the niece’s Communion party.

How bloody dare he? After all, every sector of Irish life from Sports Minister Leo Varadakar to the Mayo chapter of the Illuminati of Bavaria were in agreement that while we might have a crap team we do have ‘The Best Fans in the World’. Indeed, some even suggested that possession of the national treasure — rubicund portly chaps who can drink enormous amounts of alcohol and sing absurdly about never beating the Irish — was actually better than, well, winning anything.

Irish fans at Euro 2012

And even better to gladden our little hearts we were given pats on the head from the Germans. Imagine, the jaysus Germans praising us instead of upping the vig on the bank debt! And the Spanish TV also concurred that Irish fans were great altogether, so they were. Sure we were like one sappy big green puppy rolling over on our back having our tummy tickled.

And new heroes emerged from among the green furry top-hatted hordes. One chap, whose mother was surely waiting for him back in Kildare with the rolling pin, was splashed all over de tabloids kissing a young Croatian woman’s bare-breasted nipples. Said nipples having been produced in response to the age-old but generally forlorn request from gormless and inadequate spotty young fellows to ‘Get your tits out for the lads!’

All harmless fun to many and I’d say Poland was ‘savage craic’, as the young people say. However, being the curmudgeon that I am, I found myself coming more around to Keano’s point of view as I trawled through some of the cringeworthy crock of nonsense that some commentators and people who really ought to know better were constructing around the whole business.

Fair enough, singing and acting the eejit and getting plaudits from your hosts certainly beats wrecking the gaff after you lose a match. And no doubt it is a tribute to the Irish people generally that while (as a rule) we may batter seven varieties of faecal matter out of one another on the pitch, that’s where it ends. And that applies to all sports.

Keane, however, does have a point.

Being a good loser is one thing. Being seen to celebrate losing is something else entirely. And insidiously attempting, as some have done, to create the impression that ‘Poland 2012’ will help us get over beggaring the country for Anglo Irish bank is plain charlatanism.

Which brings me back to the reaction to the singing at the Italian match.

Perhaps the national psyche had after all imbibed the lesson that going out and getting your bottom handed to you on a plate and partying was not actually altogether healthy.

As the serial possessor of hangovers, I know that one.


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1