Sunday 19 November 2017

'Happy to be a part of the moment' Green Army's rank and file left short

Irish supporters
throng the
streets of
Estonia's
capital, Tallinn,
ahead of
tonight's big
game, with
many having to
watch the
match on
screens in the
city square
after failing to
secure a ticket
Irish supporters throng the streets of Estonia's capital, Tallinn, ahead of tonight's big game, with many having to watch the match on screens in the city square after failing to secure a ticket
Karl Coughlan, from Ashtown, Co Dublin, in Tallinn
The high ticket price didn't dampen the spirits of fans Shane Monaghan, bottom, and Eoin Byrne from Ballinteer, Dublin
Patrick Doherty, owner of the Molly Malone bar in Tallinn, before the European championship play-off match against Estonia tonight

Mark Hilliard In Tallinn

IT'S a long way to travel to watch a match in a pub or on a big screen in the local square. But many Irish fans will have travelled 2,000kms to do just that tonight -- watch Giovanni Trapattoni's boys on a screen while the 'real' thing takes place about 5kms down the road.

Between 2,500 and 3,500 Irish supporters are estimated to be in Tallinn today, but the majority will remain in the city centre for the first leg of the Euro 2012 play-off tonight, unable to successfully negotiate the last leg of their journey.

And that's because tickets are rarer than an ex-Taoiseach on a poor pension.

Many will base themselves in 'Vabaduse Valik', or Freedom Square, where the big screen will be dusted down to cater for home and away fans alike.

More still will cram into its surrounding bars, with a local barman putting it succinctly: "It's the biggest game Estonia has ever seen and the most fans Estonia has ever seen."

And yet, if we qualify for the first major finals in a decade there are many perfectly happy to be within range of the moment -- even if it is down the road a little bit.

"I would love a ticket but I won't be heartbroken to come to an incredible city with a great atmosphere," said Keith Redmond (38) from Finglas in Dublin.

"If we are watching the match in the main square we will have all the fans there and the atmosphere."

His brother Gavin (34) agreed. "To be honest I am just delighted to be part of it," he said nonchalantly.

"It's so long since we have been in this position; it would be great to look back and say, I wasn't at the match but I was as close to it as I could have got."

And they say Ireland is drowning in pessimism.

Around Tallinn last night, as freezing temperatures descended on bars and restaurants throughout the old town, there was a quiet acceptance that being at the stadium is not the be all and end all, this time.

The carnival atmosphere surrounding the fairytale-like city, characterised by castle walls and turreted towers, was in keeping with the mood of a nation should we actually go on to qualify.

And most predictions for tonight's score were on the positive side, with a comfortable away victory. But when has Ireland ever been comfortable in a play-off?

"We haven't been in (the finals) of a tournament since 2002 and the country is in an absolute jock, so it's something to look forward to," said 30-year-old fan, Shane Monaghan from Balinteer in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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