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Monday 23 April 2018

For two weeks, live the dream

Marcus Spray is in Poznan where those who were in nappies for Italia '90 will put aside fear for the future and savour the moment

TODAY is the start of the ultimate boyhood dream. Plans for the future will be put aside as a group of old school pals and I go to Poznan to see Ireland kick off their first major tournament in 10 years.

We weren't born for Stuttgart '88, were in nappies for Italia '90, and finishing junior infants during USA '94. Korea and Japan evoke strong memories -- but it's only this time that things seem real. The Euros hold such promise, but also a feeling of uncertainty -- which in many ways mirrors our view of the future.

Four years ago, we, like 57,000 students this year, had just begun our Leaving Cert. The property bubble had burst and the economy was facing into recession. However, from a self-centred view, the future didn't seem so bad. Heading into four years of college, there seemed to be plenty of time for the economy to correct itself. In the meantime, we students could enjoy a reduced cost of living, while by June 2012, all going well we'd be waltzing into a booming jobs market.

But best-laid plans and all that ... the economy shuddered before coming to an outright halt. A bailout followed and austerity became no longer temporary, but an almost permanent measure. This crisis would now define not just other lives, but our own, too.

Emigration, which had briefly receded from the consciousness of young Irish, is again a significant narrative. Now, the pull of well-paid work has become irresistible. This has snowballed as friends follow suit not necessarily for professional reasons, but also due to a dwindling social scene at home. A year spent studying in California taught me the exhilaration that living abroad brings but also the disconnection and solitude.

For those hoping to stay in Ireland, the graduate jobs market is very competitive. According to gradireland, 58 per cent of recruiters demand that applicants receive at least a 2:1. This is up from 38 per cent in 2010. A graduate programme for one organisation to which I applied received over 800 applications, which was eventually whittled down to five offers but only after applicants waded through multiple interviews, questionnaires, online tests, and psychometric analysis.

At the same time, research shows that those lucky enough to be offered a job are more likely to suffer from persistent lower wages than those who graduate in good times.

Because of the limited supply of jobs, many graduates will end up with depressed wages, and lower-skilled jobs at less prestigious companies or in organisations outside our fields of interest.

But maybe we shouldn't be too pessimistic. There is a confidence among young people that may not have existed during the depths of previous recessions. Graduates today are assertive, educated, and enjoy a relatively high standard of living compared to our predecessors. There is still hope and expectation; unlike older generations, we haven't been ravaged by years of demoralising unemployment.

Anecdotally, there are many opportunities despite the continued sluggishness of the economy. Firms that had previously frozen recruitment have to hire in order to make up the deficit from employees moving on or retiring. While the number emigrating is rising, for many it is a lifestyle choice. Regardless of the economic climate, Ireland will never quite hold the same thrill and allure as New York, London or Sydney.

Though for the next two weeks, as Ireland take on the rest of Europe, for us lads travelling around Poland, the worrying thoughts about our future will slip to the back of our minds.

Who knows where we'll be the next time Ireland qualify, but for the moment we don't really care. We've been waiting a long time for this and we're determined to savour it. A successful tournament is what we're interested in -- sure, wasn't it Ray Houghton's goal in Stuttgart all that time ago that really kickstarted the Celtic Tiger?

Sunday Independent

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