World's best fans cheer English side
Published 08/08/2010 | 05:00
If you set out to deliberately design the most dispiriting sporting experience possible, it would be hard to top Wednesday night's farrago at the Viagra Stadium.
Here you had the equivalent of one of those pointless pre-season practice matches Premier League clubs often indulge in against non-league clubs in their locality. The difference is that you would not in a million years find 49,861 English people foolish enough to pay in to such a non-event.
Given that the match meant nothing, the size of the crowd at the Agadoo Stadium had less to do with interest in football than with the contemporary cult of celebrity.
Pitted against these giants of the world game was a disparate collection of League of Ireland players who'd had two days' preparation and who, importantly, are in the middle of their season. The notable lack of enthusiasm displayed by the Airtricity XI had a lot to do with the fact that they have more important things to be doing than acting as extras in the Manchester United Show.
The ESB XI's defeat is no reflection on the local game whose strength can better be gauged by the 3-0 defeat suffered by Shamrock Rovers over two legs against Juventus. The Hoops had no players in action at the Vauxhall Viva Stadium. Instead, they concentrated on playing real football and defending the honour of a League held up to ridicule on Wednesday night as Irish people cheered on an English team against an Irish one.