Monday 21 August 2017

Draw the perfect result in clash between equals

Jack Charlton and Paul McGrath look on at the Aviva Stadium yesterday
Jack Charlton and Paul McGrath look on at the Aviva Stadium yesterday
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

We will as ever sit up close to the screen - all the better to view the big picture. For this was a big-picture game. A match designed to eradicate the horrible memory of the day the football died.

The very result, a draw, was an act of diplomacy in itself, and the game was played in good spirit. The players didn't hold back but there was respect.

The only sign of rancour was when some of the home support whistled and booed during 'God Save the Queen'. Why some soccer fans boo and the rugby people don't is worthy of an anthropology thesis in itself.

And I'll bet all the boo-boys were shielding the wounded on Bloody Sunday. It's easy to be a rebel when the war is over.

The booing of anthems isn't the defining moment. What is most important is that there was no violence. Last time the game was over after 27 minutes. Most of the support were respectful and this time the game was played right until the end, without so much as small dog invading the pitch.

The draw was a fair enough result.

Ireland dominated the first half and England were the better side in the second half. Ireland were honest and brave.

SHAKY

Robbie Brady cast his hook right on the trout's snout and our defence was never as shaky as in the last days of Trap. Some of the big English stars had desperate games. Raheem Sterling played like a man wearing ballet slippers. He didn't get stuck in.

Wayne Rooney tried hard but he was clad in hobnail boots when his touch deserted him in front of the Irish goal. He was anything but diplomatic during the build- up.

I have always felt that the Irish born in England have more passion for our culture and ways than those of us who were born here at home. Our Irishness is on tap. The Irish born in England have to work hard for their right to remain Irish.

So Rooney and English manager Roy Hodgson said they couldn't understand why it was our emigrants' grandchildren felt more Irish than the Irish themselves. Wayne and Roy, it's because we have always exported our sons and daughters and their sons and daughters can be as Irish as they want to be, or as English as they want to be.

The drink has always caused trouble in the troubled relationship between our two countries.

The gardai outmanoeuvred the English fans. My friend Ger Mulvihill, a student of journalism in UL, overheard an English supporter complain: "It's the soberest I've ever been at a match."

Our pubs open at 12.30 and the game started at 1.0, hardly time to get loaded, and the off-licences are closed on Sundays to make sure we don't miss Mass on a Sunday and get up for work on Mondays.

The big thing was everyone went home safe, even bored by a game where space was scarce and there were few clear-cut chances. There were times when it was as if the players were trying to plant sequoias in a window box.

It was all about pressing and pressure. The English game.

In fact, it was all so friendly and matey I half expected The Queen to tell Shoot that Ireland were her favourite other team.

That said, it's a long day and we hope there was be no trouble later on when the drink kicked in. The city centre area has the potential to be a flashpoint. It would be terrible if what was largely a successful exercise in restoring normality was to be marred by random and senseless acts of violence. And in the grand tradition of our country going back to the time of Jonathan Swift, we have already turned a controversy into a joke.

One country man, from a remote place where ice cream vans never ring their bells, proposed the West Stand be named after a well-known Swiss philanthropist.

Sepp Stadium maybe or Pairc Ui Blatter might be better. He paid the five million, didn't he? And I don't know what all the fuss is over. It wasn't a bribe.

The FAI were paid five million to settle a court case they had no chance of winning. In bad times. And the money went to Irish soccer.

AFFLICTED

Is it how you think that every time the referee gives a bad decision the afflicted team can have the result overturned in the courts?

The big picture has been painted over by a second coat of hysteria. The pity is that the restoration of civilised norms to the football relationships between Ireland and England will scarcely get a mention.

Yesterday at lunchtime normality was restored and Big Jack came home to a hero's welcome.

He was ashamed of his own rioting countrymen back in 1995 and was man enough to say so. Yesterday he cried.

Jack is English too and no man is more loved in our country, which proves, once and for all, we are all the same under the skin.

Indo Sport

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport