Juventus glam rocks Rovers
IT might as well have been a moon landing. World Cup winners Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet in, well, Tallaght. We haven't seen this level of excitement since those other "Shake a shamrock" days back in Italia 90.
Hoops fans were fizzing with the old magic last night as one of the biggest names in world football came to sprinkle a little stardust.
As nostalgic shouts of "Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we're going to Italy," went up, you could have been forgiven for forgetting that this wasn't 1990 and neither was it an international fixture.
But they don't call them glamour fixtures for nothing -- and this was pure 'rock and roll' as the Juve bus arrived the Tallaght Stadium and the fans, no matter what their allegiance, pressed eagerly forward for a closer gaze at the soccer superstars.
Del Piero, Trezeguet, Pepe, Amauri -- gods of football, in the flesh. Incredible.
"Do you see them, do you see them?" squealed a mother, almost as thrilled as her tiny son she was holding aloft.
It was slightly disappointing as these world class players stepped straight off the bus in their tans and their tracksuits, fancy Bose headphones still firmly in position, with not a glance for the fans snapping feverishly with their camera phones. But still they got a warm welcome to Tallaght nonetheless.
"Juve! Juve!" the crowd shouted, regardless.
The turnout was incredible. For a stadium that holds just 6,000 at a squeeze, it seemed like 10 times as many had come along anyway just to savour the atmosphere, even if they hadn't a ticket.
Una Curran, from Tallaght, and her two children, Matteo (4) and Emilia (6), were without tickets but they were rewarded with a glimpse of the players anyway. "Poppa is Italian," explained Una.
"Unfortunately we could only get one ticket, so he's gone in himself," she said.
Brother and sister Danny and Vivienne O'Reilly, from Dunboyne, Co Meath, were hoping Rovers would manage to keep the score tight. "One nil -- that would be ok," reckoned Danny, who is going to Modena for the second leg.
And the visitors were made to feel at home and 'Nessun Dorma' and 'That's Amore' rang around the stadium.
Italian fans were thin on the ground -- the Italian club had been allocated 400 tickets only -- but they were instantly recognisable. No sports gear for them. One Italian visitor, in impeccable leather shoes, posed solemnly for a picture with the Rovers mascot -- managing to communicate his request though he spoke no English.
"No capiche," he told a group of local children, who had asked him if he was from Italy. "No speaka no Americano," they teased.
Local TD Charlie O'Connor was there in his Hoops scarf. "I never miss a game, been following them all my life," said the FF politician who is planning to travel to Italy for the second leg.
Also spotted at the Europa League qualifier were comedian Karl Spain; Terry Connaughton, director of the Ranelagh Arts Festival; and music publisher Steve Lindsay of Windmill Lane.
The flags fluttered and cheers bellowed for Rovers as they ran out on the pitch, with fans booing Juventus out of loyalty as the Seria A side followed for the warm-up.
A few anti-Bohemian shouts went up, along with a few "Who are ya?" roars aimed at Juventus -- just for good measure.
While in the stand, an Italian fan in an incredibly swanky suit could hardly take his eyes off the lush green vista of the Dublin mountains. Despite going down two-nil in the end, Rovers put up a decent display.
The fans went home with Hoops in their hearts, hoping for a miracle in the second leg.