Friday 20 October 2017

Leprechauns run amok in sad submission to forces of eejitry

Dion Fanning

Last Monday, the heroic armies of the night woke up in Poznan to learn that they would be expected to fight other battles when they returned home.

The sad news about the collapse of Monaghan United while everyone was trying to prolong the party led many people to call for our heroes -- the fans -- to come home and do their duty.

This is the problem with trying to turn what was for many nothing more than a lads' holiday into the Odyssey.

Nobody will be turning up in Ibiza to offer Irish holidaymakers any awards or suggest that having partied so magnificently in Spain they had demonstrated the qualities needed to save Ireland.

Monaghan needed people to watch them and here were people who claimed to be fans of Irish football watching football and drinking.

There were fans of football and fans of League of Ireland football in Poland, but there were also fans of partying and many, many fans of drinking.

"What's wrong with getting drunk?" many cried last week. Indeed there is nothing wrong with getting drunk, apart from the massive drain on A&E departments, the lives ruined and the quiet, lonely despair of many drinkers. There is nothing wrong with getting drunk, but don't turn it into an act of heroism.

Most people in League of Ireland football know that the solution is not to complain about those who don't watch the game. Yet there is a vocal minority, convinced of their own martyrdom, certain that it is the public's fault that the public doesn't want to watch their league.

Last week, it was easy to feel some sympathy for them as they watched many Irish fans in Poland swaggering with self-regard. If they were on a mission for their country rather than a holiday then they could continue their self-sacrifice at home by watching Monaghan United. This won't happen, but the fan returned home content that he at least had done his duty.

I know of no conversation among Irish people before the European Championships which contained sentences such as, "Forget about what happens on the pitch, I just hope the Irish fans reclaim their title as the Best Fans in the World from, well, from whoever held it when we didn't give a fuck".

UEFA may yet formalise the Irish supporters' excellence which will only make us more like Gareth in The Office who was Team Leader, a prize he was reminded which was "like making the div kid at school Milk Monitor".

Ireland had seven players on the Worst Team at the Tournament which may be an artificial prize as well, but at least reflects something of the truth of the experience.

Since I wrote about the festival of eejitry last week, I have been told that I have disrespected the Irish fans or that I was unpatriotic. Chesterton said "my country right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober'." In this instance, it is a question of my country, drunk or sober.

The overwhelming triumph of eejitry has made this the most depressing tournament in Irish football history.

Every tournament has contained a battle between the forces of eejitry and those who oppose it.

Perhaps Euro '88 was an event of such magnificent innocence that there were very few battles, but there were still skirmishes. I can recall John Giles defending himself after angry calls were made to Montrose following his criticisms of the defending of Mick McCarthy during the England game.

Giles was always 'Johnny Giles' to the eejit who wanted to know why he wasn't supporting his country. At half-time in the game against the USSR, Giles so magnificently said "everyone should be getting out their scarf and rattle, Bill". This was his way of saying Ireland had achieved some sporting excellence on the field. It wasn't a retreat.

In 1990, Eamon Dunphy, in his flawed way, represented the opposition to eejitry but so did Paul McGrath and Ronnie Whelan in their less flawed way.

Saipan was a story of drink which is also often a story of eejitry, especially when it turns into the attempt to have a party under any circumstances.

In 2012, we have been overrun by the forces of eejitry, perhaps only mitigated by the sense that the Irish players themselves found the tournament a humiliating experience.

Perhaps the Irish male needs a Million Man March in which he asserts some staid values like self-respect and dignity rather than the more traditional values like drunkenness and vomiting.

We already have our version of the Million Man March but we call it St Patrick's Day. This would be different. There would be no men dressed as leprechauns and there would not be savage drinking, at least not during the formal part of the proceedings.

Many might insist that the ease with which we now dress as leprechauns or some other mythical representation of the eejit shows a

nation at ease with itself. It demonstrates that we are now comfortable enough with ourselves to embrace and subvert the old stereotypes.

Yet there is no evidence that we are at ease with anything, except when assisted by massive doses of alcohol or other sedatives. In those instances we don't seem to be doing anything with the old stereotypes but perpetuating them and acting like a tribe of Uncle Toms.

The considered response of TD Aodhán ó Riordáin suggests there might be one politician who is not prepared to bend the knee before these rampant forces.

There are others. Niall Quinn has made the interesting suggestion that Roy Keane should become the new Ireland manager. If Keane was to work under John Delaney, it would see the reconciliation of the two traditions on this island. A nation once again.

dfanning@independent.ie

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