Sunday 25 September 2016

Flat atmosphere and cold hot dogs aside, Euro 2016 is a possibility again

Published 04/09/2015 | 21:56

Republic of Ireland supporters before the game in Faro, Portugal.
Republic of Ireland supporters before the game in Faro, Portugal.

Even before kick-off Ireland was on to a winner.

  • Go To

The dodgy DJ in a tent outside the Algarve Stadium interrupted Pharell Williams'  'Happy' and the 'who can hang from a tree for the longest' competition between the fans to announce that Georgia had beaten Scotland.

It was game on. The boys in green had just had the opportunity to decide their own fate handed back to them. Third place in Group D is back up for grabs and the fans were hoping that we wouldn't disappoint at the first minnow hurdle: Gibraltar.

In fairness we done that before - Litchensutein anyone? 

4 September 2015; Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2015; Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2015; Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2015; Robbie Keane, left, Republic of Ireland, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with team-mate's Jonathan Walters and Jeff Hendrick, right. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Jonathan Walters has a goal disallowed, for offside, in the first half.
Jonathan Walters in action against Erin Barnett of Gibraltar.
Republic of Ireland supporters before the game in Faro, Portugal.
4 September 2015; Wes Hoolahan, Republic of Ireland, in action against Lee Casciaro, Gibraltar. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2015; The Republic of Ireland team, back row, from left to right, James McCarthy, Jonathan Walters, John O'Shea, Cyrus Christie, Glenn Whelan and Ciaran Clark. Front row, from left to right, Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Brady, Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Jeff Hendrick. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
4 September 2015; Republic of Ireland supporters, from left, Owen Daly, Mark Doyle and Karl Harte, all from Cork City, before the game. UEFA EURO 2016 Championship Qualifier, Group D, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland. Est?dio Algarve, Faro, Portugal. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Around 3,000 fans made the trip to impressive stadium that was built for the Euro 2004 tournament and has a capacity of over 30,000 - but no home team. Gibraltar, which is a four hour drive away, rent out the grounds for their matches.

Read more: Robbie Keane adds to goal record but bigger tests await Ireland

The stadium's 73 metre-high curved roofs make it unique but it's most high-profile game ever was the European quarter final between Sweden and the Netherlands which ended in a scoreless draw.

Last night's the travelling support was certainly hoping for more goals and made no secret of it.

As they lined up for the anthems several of the Irish players noticeably glanced over their shoulders to a green, and somewhat sunburnt army, who were in high spirits. It set the tone.

But the goals were slow to come. And when eventually they did it was through the unlikely character of Cyrus Christie after 26 minutes.

"I wonder what price he was to score," was the view from the stands.

Read more: Ireland player ratings - Cyrus Christie pick of the bunch in comfortable Irish victory

There had been a few false starts and a disallowed goal but we were rolling.

Of all his, now 67, goals for Ireland Robbie Keane was never handed an easier one than he was just after half-time.

Then came his penalty and the game was over - just what everybody wanted.

Substitute Shane Long for the olé, olé chant going again with number four in the 79th minute.

The few dozen Gibraltar fans played their part but much like their team they were no match for the Irish.

Although the football was never going to be an epic most of the travelling fans got what they came for: three points, a weekend at the seaside and a hint of a tan. 

Adrien Hogan from Ballinasloe, Co Galway already one eye on finding somewhere Sunday's All Ireland hurling final by half-time.

Read more: 'The biggest excitement took place in Tbilisi' – RTE panel pore over Gibraltar victory

"It was never going to be a classic but it was entertaining enough," he said. 

Oisin Walshe from Castlebar in Mayo reckoned "Robbie Brady put in a great performance. It's job done. A win and a clean sheet."

Fran Connan from Tullamore, Co Offaly thought the atmosphere was "a little flat and the hot dogs were cold but the match is what we expected". "A win is a win," he said.

Most of the Irish are staying in the seaside town of Albufeira where there was some trouble with police on Friday night.

"The GNR (police) are at the end of a busy tourist season, they have no patience for anything so they can be over zealous and pull out their batons just to clear a busy street," explained one bar worker.

That was all forgotten as they headed back into Portuguese party mode last night.

We might not have threatened the all-time winning record of 8-0 against Malta but thanks in no small part to Georgia, Euro 2016 is a possibility again. That's a result. 

Online Editors

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport