Impossible is nothing for the Boys in Green
For years we were forced to listen to the high priests of sport preaching about the sanctity of the "beautiful game". All the while we stoically accepted it was our lot to be the honest journeymen bending the knee at the altar of the hoof-and-hope creed.
Thus, we turned our goals into the footballing equivalent of the medieval Trebuchet, catapulting everything we could from one end of the field to the other willing the walls to fall, that we might sack the citadels of the great footballing nations. And for all our heroics before that now momentous night in Lille, when the forehead of Robbie Brady and the silken touch of Wes Hoolahan produced a spell of national enchantment, we had become used to surviving at subsistence levels on the crumbs of gallant defeats.
Only our memories could be golden. But in a split second a wormhole opened in time; we revisited the promised land first glimpsed by the likes of Ray Houghton and Ronnie Whelan. Despite the fact that fans had to go back to 2002 to find the last time the Boys in Green won a match in a competitive tournament, enthusiasm, emotion and the edge of expectation has never blunted.
The team ingeniously assembled by Martin O'Neill, and forged into such a sharp unit by Roy Keane, has finally led supporters parched for the taste of success to the oasis. Sure, we remembered what happened during the 1994 World Cup at Giants Stadium, when we also saw off Italy 1-0. But for way too long, die-hard fans have had to dwell on the past exploits of Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran, Liam Brady, Johnny Giles, etc.
O'Neill has discovered a new galaxy of stars destined to shine on. Heretofore, if you wished to see an insatiable appetite for work matched with guile and silky skills, if you hankered for intricate lattice-work in passes woven from magic, you had to look to Germany, France, Spain and yes, Italy. But that was pre-Lille.
They say if you can't out-play them, out-work them. Ireland did both. Jaded but buoyed by one of the most inspirational victories in Irish sport, the Green Army will now decamp to Lyon. The hosts France, famous for fine cuisine, and footballing larceny through the hand of Thierry Henry, now await. Motivation should not be a problem. The US coach Frank Gaines once said: "Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible." In Lille, Ireland did just that. All those who have loyally traversed the deserts of the world of football under the tricolour have passed a single solemn message from one generation to the next, and that is this: there is no known formula for killing an Irish dream.
Time to face inconvenient truth on water charges
Even the most difficult political problems usually start off being simple. They become more intractable by ignoring them, as is the case with Irish Water.
Just when you thought the issue had gone away, Leo Varadkar yesterday warned that “sooner or later” householders will have to pay water charges. He was simply ventilating an inconvenient truth.
The Social Protection Minister took the opportunity to attack Fianna Fáil for insisting on axing the charges in the talks on a government deal. He is quite correct Irish Water will have to be dealt with it. It is not more pressing than health as an issue; the fact that it was moved up the agenda was due to political opportunism. But money for infrastructure must be secured and people must have an incentive to conserve water.
Sometimes it is necessary to feel the heat before seeing the light, and this issue has certainly generated a lot more heat than light.