Loyalty in sport and in life is very important. Loyalty in its simplest form is what keeps people together through the many testing situations that life can throw at you. In sport loyalty is shown through the fan who will stick with a team no matter what, whether they are winning or losing. To those hard-core fans loyalty and love is the same thing.
Tonight in Gdansk we witnessed loyalty on a scale not seen very often anywhere never mind in sport. The Irish fans that had kicked the recession in the teeth to travel to cheer on the boys in green stood and sung their hearts out for the love of their team. At home, watching on TV, it was the one that thing kept drawing me back to the screen and away from the comments on Facebook and Twitter. The singing was loud and amazing. Those Irish fans over there were going to enjoy themselves but at the same time they were letting their team, and the whole world know, that they were backing Ireland to the last.
It makes you feel proud to be Irish because of that never say die attitude. The chant of You’ll Never Beat The Irish incorporates this more than anything. It must bewildering and frustrating for people from other nations when they hear the Irish fans chanting this, especially after getting hammered so badly as we did tonight. We as a nation love success but we absolutely revel in the taking of a beating and to stay standing. We just love getting a hiding so that we can say to our enemies “is that the best ye got?” More often than not they look at us and go off shaking their heads, muttering “crazy Irish.” There will be boys tonight in Gdansk who will shed more than a tear or two for dear ould Eire but they will be the ones who will jump up and sing loudest, when you least expect it, a verse from The Green Fields of France that everyone else had forgotten. In truth everyone had not even realised that your man was still awake.
The fact is that the Irish are a very loyal people and that loyalty is even more prevalent when we are down. That is when a strange sense of Irishness comes out. We love these lads even more because they got a 4-0 hammering. But unfortunately the truth is that this was the worst Irish performance ever in a major tournament. We have not lost this badly in years. The players were outclassed, ill-prepared and made to look tactically foolish.
Trapattoni has a lot of questions to answer but will the FAI be brave enough to ask those questions.
Tonight and in fact the whole Irish trip has belonged to the fans. Thanks to social networking sites and other online magazine sites we have never before been as close to the Green Army on Tour as we have been for this tournament. The various antics and craic is shared nearly instantaneously with the eager public back home. Everything from the various flags, costumes and songs to Eamonn Keegans “don’t tell me mammy” Croat breast adventure. The list goes on and the posts that I have seen are really making me feel part of the experience. One that sticks out is the Thai kids singing Rocky Road to Poland, seemingly there is a back story to this which if true is just heart-breaking.
The final game against Italy on Monday is irrelevant so in true Irish fashion we will probably go out and win that one. Irish fans and people have a lot to be proud of so right now we should just enjoy what is left of the experience. Like one of the grumpy old men on RTE said none of our neighbours apart from Engerland have managed to qualify for a major tournament in over a decade and half. So we should be proud of our accomplishment in that sense. So get your flags out, don the green garments, turn up the TV sing out loud and sing out proud one last time YOU’LL NEVER BEAT THE IRISH!