WE used to laugh at the English. Every European Championship they qualified for they believed they would win it.
But while England fans took a more sober approach regarding their chances at Euro 2012, Ireland’s cheerleading brigade managed to convince themselves we would crush Croatia, spank Spain and lash Italy.
Even Grumpy Dunphy was getting caught up in the hyperbole surrounding Trapattoni’s chances of leading Ireland to the promised land and out of the group of death.
However, reality can be a painful reminder.
Ireland is a minnow and not only in world football terms. Just like with our economy, we will always have to thrive to be greater than the sum of our parts. We are not Germany and Spain when it comes to football, and the same is true economically.
So when the details of the Spanish bailout were released, there was little shock the rules were different than those for Ireland.
The aid is expected to be focused entirely on Spain’s banking sector and does not appear to have committed to additional austerity measures or structural reform.
The media has also has been kinder to Spain.
When the IMF rolled into Dublin two years ago, the global media fed the world a strict diet of ghost estates, piebald ponies and beggars. ‘Rainy, dour Ireland was as depressed as its economy,’ was the general theme.
The images of protests, long dole queues and pensive politicians broadcast a different picture from sunny Spain and have so far not relied on worn clichés as in the case of Ireland.
The simple fact is that this is because Spain’s economy is the fourth largest in the EU and demands respect. It is too big to fail or, indeed, to patronise.
Ireland on the other hand might punch above its weight in many aspects, but also has to be realistic about its position in the pecking order.
While Greece rebelled, Ireland took its medicine and is playing a longer game. Because our nation’s reputation relies on stability, this is most likely the best option.
At present Spain’s unemployment level is 24.1pc (compared to Ireland’s 14.5pc), with more than half of all workers under the age of 25 out of work. Such a massive level on unemployment is a ticking time bomb as it will soon start to accelerate mortgage defaults, further fuel social unrest and political stability, while all the time suppressing economic growth.
Ireland is in a far better position, and while things continue to be tough the economy is well placed to recover (as long as Europe manages its way out of the current crisis).
So while we may struggle against Spain on the pitch in Poland, the longer-term prospect for Ireland is far sunnier than many people think.
Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.