Thursday 27 October 2016

Declan Lynch: Game but limited - let this be our battle cry in France

Our best policy for Euro 2016 is one of deepest humility, we must cling to that lack of self-belief, writes Declan Lynch

Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30

FIRED UP: Martin O’Neill
FIRED UP: Martin O’Neill

There was a preview of Euro 2016 in an English paper last week, in which the Republic was described as "limited but game". Which was not overly generous, but not unfair either, except by the time it reached an Irish sports website, it had changed somewhat.

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Now it was "game but limited". And there is a difference.

It had not been a very flattering assessment of poor Paddy in the first place, yet somehow when Paddy himself got hold of it, he had managed to make it even less flattering.

Almost unconsciously, it seemed, he had turned the glass-half-full of "limited but game" into the glass-half-empty of "game but limited".

What the English paper was saying was that we may not be very good at football, but we'll give it a right good shot anyway and who knows?

What the Irish website was saying was that we'll give it a right good shot, but we're not very good at football anyway, so it probably won't work.

It would seem that despite the massive relief of qualifying for Euro 2016, we have not regained the over-confidence of the boom years, we are still struggling with these issues of self-esteem.

And that is exactly where we want to be - in the competition, our name called out at an absurdly extravagant ceremony in Paris along with Belgium, Sweden and Italy, and not really fancying ourselves all that much.

Which is fine, because Paddy fancying himself has never really ended well.

Indeed, it is essential now that we cling to that lack of self-belief. It is what got us through our greatest days, through Euro 88 and through Italia 90, that sense of utter elation we felt when it turned out that we were perhaps not as bad as we had thought we were, that we hadn't been beaten out the door but had achieved a draw or even some kind of a crazy victory against superior opponents.

By contrast, there was a strange, almost unnatural kind of positivity about us in Euro 2012, as if we were not just delighted to be involved in this thing that was much greater than ourselves, but we also thought we had some sort of an outside chance of not being slaughtered by Spain, or not being beaten senseless by Italy or Croatia. But we were.

And as we know, it is harder to take that, harder to lose horribly when you thought you might squeeze a draw, harder to get out of bed on the morning after optimism.

So we won't be doing any of that in France, okay? We have our slogan now, our battle-cry: Game But Limited.

Let there be queues outside the tattoo parlours of Ireland and let these words be carved in indelible ink on the foreheads of the Irish : Game But Limited.

And if perchance we get a result out there against Sweden in the first game at the Stade de France - scene of such unhappy memories - and there are some among us who feel that it might be time to move it on towards the more vainglorious 'Limited But Game', let them be chastised by their fellows and ostracised if they persist.

And let our admiration for Belgium grow until it resembles the kind of awe we once felt in the presence of England and the USSR in Euro 88, and England and Holland in Italia 90, and Italy in America 1994 and Germany in 'Saipan' 2002.

Let us get rid of this notion knocking around our heads that international football in general is poor these days, that a couple of high-class players are all you need, players like, say, Seamus Coleman and eh... no, there will be none of that.

Let us imagine what the terrifying Eden Hazard of Belgium can do to us, if he feels like it, or that crazy Swedish genius Zlatan Ibrahimovic; let us be deeply respectful of all that Italian know-how.

Let us think of just enjoying those trips to Paris and Bordeaux and Lille, where they will hear us singing our anthem: Game But Limited.

Let us do this right.

Let us abandon all hope.

Sunday Independent

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