Sunday 25 September 2016

One day like this a year...

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Shane Long celebrates after scoring the winning goal
Shane Long celebrates after scoring the winning goal

After nearly 10 years of nothing seeming possible, of shrinking potential, this morning, however fleeting it may be, we are feeling alive again as a nation.

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This morning, this feels like a great little country to watch sport in. This morning too, Ireland feels a little bit closer to being a classless society. We're all rugger huggers today, baby. And fair-weather fans are flocking back to football. Today, we dare to hope.

But of course, we fear to hope too much. We barely dare to articulate our tentative hope as we get unsteadily to our feet like a newborn deer. Whisper it - could these be the good old days? Could this be the healing? Could this be one of those turning points? An Italia 90? And this time with social media to spread the virus of euphoria.

There is a giddiness in the air, in the pubs, the off-licences, on the streets. For a year or more now, they've been telling us that the country is back in business. But we had forgotten how to digest good news. And belief in the recovery was tempered by things like the homelessness issue, by the fact that people aren't feeling the recovery in their own pockets. People see the statistics and hear the words, but up to now it didn't feel like a recovery.

And somewhere in the back of everyone's mind today is the thought that this could be the defibrillator we need, that Shane Long could have kicked off something on Thursday night. There is great satisfaction too that it was the Germans who we sent home crying. We've needed to give the Germans a good kick in the ass for a while now. It felt good.

But we worry too, as we always do, about losing the run of ourselves. While French coach Philippe Saint-Andre is talking up our rugby team, Joe Schmidt is using words like 'underdog'. Because he knows that is the role in which we are comfortable. We like to see ourselves as unlikely giant slayers.

It never suits us to get too cocky. Just look at what happened us the last time we got too confident. We're still paying for that.

Even if it all goes wrong today, we are still in a World Cup quarter-final and European Championship play-offs. But we dare to think we might do a little bit better than that, that we might advance in rugby and football today with the kind of unlikely triumphs that we can relive again and again on Reeling In The Years.

Super Sunday might not go exactly as planned, but now let's savour this sense of possibility, this sense that we are the greatest little country in the world and the eyes of the world are on us, that we can beat anyone - and all the other delusions of grandeur that make our hearts beat a little bit faster.

So throw those curtains wide - one day a year like this would see us right.

Sunday Independent

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