Monday 26 September 2016

'Un grand merci' to our noble Boys in Green

Published 28/06/2016 | 02:30

'Yesterday's game was a tale of what might have been.' Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
'Yesterday's game was a tale of what might have been.' Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Sadly, the great adventure ended in Stade de Lyon when France, the Euro 2016 host nation, came from behind to defeat the Republic of Ireland by two goals to one. It was the end of a great dream which brought the Irish nation on a rollercoaster ride of excitement and emotional highs and lows.

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There was joy when we almost beat, but then drew, with Sweden. There was national depression when we were outclassed by a Belgian side on the rebound from their own humiliation at the hands of Italy. Then there was a heady mixture of joy and relief when we defeated Italy to go through to the next round against all the odds.

Yesterday's game was a tale of what might have been. There are good grounds for arguing that this one just got away from us, and many reasons for musing about how we just might have squeezed through.

But what was also notable about yesterday was the huge support from the Ireland fans. Although they were heavily outnumbered by the home support, who unsurprisingly hogged the vast bulk of the tickets, they helped lift a team who had to play the final half-hour with just 10 players while trailing by a goal.

We are a sporting people who know how to enjoy all sports for all the right reasons. We can take many positives from this summer excursion to France, but one thing is sure - on and off the field, Ireland's image and standing among our European neighbours stands enhanced.

Let us also salute the achievement of the Northern Ireland side who also qualified from their group and were only narrowly squeezed out by the Welsh on Saturday night. We wish both the remaining teams from our neighbouring island, England and Wales, all the best in the remainder of this splendid tournament.

But let us conclude in the language of the French hosts, by wishing "un grand merci" to mentors Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane and all their back-up team, as well as all the big-hearted players who often played well above the ability previously ascribed to them. To paraphrase the old Gaelic aphorism: Beidh lá eile ag Foireann Sacair Poblacht na hÉireann!

Protection of relationship with Britain is paramount

'It is important to recognise that this is probably the single largest political event this country has had to deal with outside its borders for 40 years.'

Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe wasn't seeking to play down the significance of Brexit yesterday. From our position on the periphery of Europe, Ireland is now metaphorically caught between the rock of Britain and the hard place of the European Union.

During our 43-year membership of the EEC and EU, our country has faced challenges before. In 1979, we had to decide upon the path to take on the establishment of the currency grid, the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Again, in 1990, there was the decision on joining the single currency.

On both occasions, there was a fork in the road and we had to decide upon which route to take, with uncertainty surrounding the consequences.

This time around, the decision taken wasn't ours, but we have to deal with the fallout. Taoiseach Enda Kenny heads to Brussels tomorrow to meet with his EU counterparts.

The emergency summit comes after the EU's founding members met privately at the weekend. The omens are not good for consensus being reached on the timeline or terms surrounding Britain's departure of the EU.

The uncertainty will prove costly. What our Government must do is make Ireland's position crystal clear and ensure the protection of our relationship with Britain is paramount.

Irish Independent

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