Monday 21 May 2018

Deafening early roar silenced as Irish hearts are broken by Danes

Shane Duffy looks dejected after Denmark’s second goal. Picture: Reuters
Shane Duffy looks dejected after Denmark’s second goal. Picture: Reuters
President Michael D Higgins Photo: PA
Shane Duffy celebrating making it 1-0 Photo: Sportsfile
David Campbell (7), Mark Garry (8) and Alfie Carroll (7), from Balinteer
Christina Colley and Neil Moran, from Kingswood
Amanda Kelly and mum Phyllis Byrne
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: PA

Ryan Nugent at the Aviva

Devastated. Downcast. In the doldrums. Ireland fans had so much to hope for - and our team gave us every reason to dream.

From the outset the excitement and anticipation was palpable in the Aviva.

Hearts pumping, spines tingling, nerves jittering, voices screaming...and all after only five minutes of play.

It's hard to say if a goal had ever been celebrated with more vigour than when Shane Duffy blasted a header into the net.

Yet, this again, was only a mere few minutes into a lengthy hour and a half. And it wasn't long before the tables had turned.

This could have been Ireland's first opportunity to progress to the World Cup on their own soil and the supporters - and players - gave it their all.

The raspy tones were there among them long before kick-off, as the build-up for thousands naturally began with a sing-song on the Ballsbridge streets.

It was the only show in town last night, so much so that even the President only had thoughts for football yesterday afternoon - he was calling for the team to "go for it a bit more up the top".

He'd have been delighted with the start, if he managed to get to his seat by the time Martin O'Neill's men scored.

In the midst of the chaos, however, the Irish were silenced as the Danes clocked up two goals with 30 minutes gone. A sucker punch that left the Boys in Green shell-shocked and on the brink of exit with more than an hour to go. Many saw the possibility of two goals, but three was a tall order.

"Sing when you're winning" - came from the Danish end of the ground.

Any goodwill from pre-match was long gone and the Danish fans ramped up their roar.

From an Irish perspective, kitman Dick Redmond (famed for wearing the Superman outfit following qualification for Euro 2016) had issued a rallying cry for the Aviva Stadium crowd.

Read More: 'We had heart, but not the composure' - deflated fans react to defeat

"Massive game tonight. Full house. Going in to set up dressing room now. Hope whole country gets behind the team... we can and we will win this game. Come on Ireland," he said.

He added: "Sing your hearts out tonight because believe you me the players will leave nothing in that dressing room.

"Every last ounce of energy will be spilled on that pitch tonight. These players believe. We believe. You believe. Come on Ireland."

They didn't need anyone to tell them, that's for sure.

But heart and soul just wasn't enough. The Danes netted a devastating third goal.

And with more than 15 minutes to go, the light was well and truly dying. Christian Eriksen had rifled home Denmark's fourth.

At the same time, the many who remained - heartbroken as they were - gave everything they had left, as a rousing rendition of the 'Fields of Athenry' reverberated around the Aviva.

Of course the travelling Danish generally made more noise for the remainder of the tie, and their chants of "sing when you're winning" must have hurt those Irish supporters.

Read More: 11 things you didn't know about Irish XI

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way.

Nobody had envisaged this long, painful end to a campaign where only a month ago we had witnessed the adrenaline rush of Cardiff. By the time the fifth went in, there were calls from the crowd to just blow it up prematurely.

James McClean summed up the feeling of so many fans. "I don't know what to say. We shot ourselves, I mean we got a good start… I don't know what to say," he said. "I'm devastated, not just for us but for everyone, I think maybe the occasion, I don't know. Maybe they were just better."

Manager Martin O'Neill was defiant in defeat.

"We were well beaten in the end. No question about that," he said. "We conceded two really slopping goals in a matter of minutes and it was a long way back after that.

"Goals change games. That's the thing. We can fight back."

Irish Independent

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