Sunday 25 February 2018

Defeat by Wales will keep us grounded after dream victory over Andorra

It's time for blue-sky thinking following our loss in some obscure global rugby tournament, writes Declan Lynch

TENSION: Fans watch the Ireland v Wales Rugby World Cup match in Kielys in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Photo: Gerry Mooney
TENSION: Fans watch the Ireland v Wales Rugby World Cup match in Kielys in Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Photo: Gerry Mooney

AND so we can still dream. They say that Paddy is never really himself when he goes into a game expecting to win, or even half-expecting. Yet In Andorra he did what he had to do, with an almost chilling professionalism.

Nobody beats Andorra 8-0 any more, they just get one or two, and then they get out the cigars. Indeed, it was quite impressive the way that Paddy resisted the all-too-obvious temptations to keep scoring, Robbie Keane in particular sending out the signal that getting more goals in this place would be not just unnecessary, it might turn out to be dangerously self-delusional.

And in the great expanses of time which we still had to live through, between the second Irish goal and the final whistle, we held on to our dream, but we tried somehow not to get ahead of ourselves. In the quieter interludes of the second half, we played cards, phoned an old friend, caught up on our reading -- anything to take our minds off the deeply worrying prospect of needing only a draw against Armenia, at home, to reach the play-offs.

Which is why this report, as yet unconfirmed, of the defeat of Paddy in some obscure rugby tournament thousands of miles away, was such a good thing. It stopped us getting over-excited, at this one moment in our history when we must be calm.

It came at the right time too, at some absurd hour of the morning just as the heroes of Andorra were getting off the plane from Barcelona, banishing any thoughts of complacency that might have crept into their heads.

As you can see, we're focussing on the positives. We're doing a bit of blue-sky thinking. We're going for turnkey solutions, while we pick the low-hanging fruit. And we're doing all that, going forward.

In fact, so strange was all that business of watching the guys fronting up at six in the morning, listening to the unbearable pain in Ryle Nugent's voice, in pubs with no beer, I'm inclined to suspect that it never happened at all.

And even if it did, there are other consolations and I'll think of them in a minute ... I'm thinking ... It's like this: when you stop drinking, you are told by wiseguys that when you wake up in the morning, you know that that's as good as you're going to feel all day. But for Paddy trying to cope with these disturbing rumours -- and as yet they are no more than rumours -- that he's been knocked out of some alleged World Cup and he hasn't even had his breakfast yet, there is still one happy thought to comfort him. This is as bad as he's going to feel all day. Though, in truth, it can be a very long day.

And yet who would begrudge poor Taffy his day in the sun? If there is any substance at all in these allegations of an Irish reversal, then we are happy that it's our old friend Taffy, God love him, who is hearing Delilah by Tom Jones belting out of the tannoy, at the end of this game which may or may not have taken place.

And let us also be the first to commiserate with him at the rather forbidding prospect which now lies ahead of him, getting slaughtered by the French in the semi-final. If any of you, for reasons best known to yourselves, were feeling a bit down even for a moment, just think: it could have been us facing all that embarrassment. So, for Paddy, this is really excellent news all round. He's catching the breaks too, because while the Big One was happening in Andorra, Russia were quietly winning the Group, thus freeing Paddy from the horrors of having to beat Armenia, to qualify automatically -- that wasn't going to work, was it?

Instead, we now face an Armenian side which in the last few months has

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apparently become the best team in world football. Knowing that, and taking on board whatever negative reports may be filtering through from the Antipodes, our heads are now in the right place.

We are up against it, and that's the only place for us to be.

It's important too, with the Global Irish Economic Forum taking place at Dublin Castle, that we show the right attitude.

They seem like nice people, who would want to empathise with us, if and when we lost an important match. "And what match would that be?" you say. to them.

The match, as we know, is on Tuesday night.

Sunday Independent

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