Monday 24 November 2014

Green Army focus on positives as Serbs spoil the Long good night

Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30

President Higgins shakes hands with eight-year-old Ireland mascot Domhnall O Confhaola, from Connemara, Co Galway, before the start of the game. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
President Higgins shakes hands with eight-year-old Ireland mascot Domhnall O Confhaola, from Connemara, Co Galway, before the start of the game. Picture: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Sandra Martin, Castleknock, Caroline Ginty, Longford and Joanne Duffy, Donegal, on their way to the Ireland-Serbia match
Brian Oxley, from Timahoe, Co Laois, attended the game with his son William (12) and daughter Kate (6).
Shane Long celebrates with team-mate Wes Hoolahan after scoring for Ireland last night
Ireland's James McCarthy clears off the line
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane watches on as his side lose their friendly with Serbia

THE players are fizzing, the chants are louder and the fans are back with a real pep in their step. The 'dream team' euphoria wasn't just a phase. The optimism is back.

We lost and yes, it was disappointing to do so. But the scoreline didn't seem quite so painful after a pretty respectable showing.

And if anyone needed more convincing the green army is back, even the touts have re-emerged.

Not two minutes into the friendly against Serbia at the Aviva last night and we had the ball in the back of the net, after Wes Hoolahan looked to have got the final touch on a Glenn Whelan volley. It looked good – but it was offside. Five minutes later, Shane Long got us back in business with a great goal. Before kick-off scarves emblazoned with deified visages of O'Neill and Keane were being snapped up for a fiver while other options were printed with the slogan: "Cometh the hour, Cometh the Men."

The FAI may have been fretting about ticket sales but the crowds just kept trickling in, culminating in a respectable 37,595.

With the smell of fried onions and burgers drifting in the night air, the fans were philosophical as they left the Aviva.

"It's only the beginning," said Frank Moran, from Tallaght, there with young son, Evan (8). "I didn't have the heart to bring him to a game last year. Yeah, we lost tonight but we didn't make a complete show of ourselves. We can hold our head up high."

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