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Aviva reception paid tribute to a newly-wed couple - Trap and the Irish nation

HOW do you critically analyse a house party, one where 51,000 revellers have squeezed into the gaff?

Do you comment upon the glass-shattering decibel levels and wonder if the party-pooping neighbours are about to call the cops? Do you award douze points to the Euro wannabes while frowning upon those oh-so cliched Mexican waves?

Answer: you do none of the above. Instead, you just go with the "happy, clappy, we love Trappy" flow. You pop the Champagne corks and, if there's none of the expensive French stuff left, then simply raid the fridge for the vodka jelly instead.

Now lads, on the count of three, stand up for the boys in green, stand up ... until you fall down in a merry, hiccuping heap.

Yes, last night was not an international football match, much less a must-win, edge-of-the-armchair seat play-off to decide our summer fate.

Last night was a house party. Or, to be more precise, it was the homecoming party for a couple who got married overseas, where all the guests are far more relaxed, chilled out even. We know the bride won't be two hours late, and the groom hasn't been planning a last-minute runner.

For the deed has already been done. Signor Trap and the Irish nation walked up the Estonian aisle last Friday night. They finally consummated their occasionally fraught love affair in Tallinn.

We still don't understand what he's saying half the time but, you've got to admit, Trappish has a hypnotic quality that sucks you in and makes you almost believe that ultra-rigid 4-4-2 is the beautiful game reincarnate.

Almost, we said.

Suffice to say, yesterday evening was not a night for carping about the style of Ireland's football because the substance of qualification was all that mattered. It may be "old style" (to quote a magnanimous Eamon Dunphy) or even "caveman" (the term favoured by Dunphy at his pejorative best/worst) but it has now got us all the way to Poland and Ukraine next summer.

So, our record goalscorer misses a sitter that even the sexagenarian Dunphy might have netted? We forgive you, Robbie. So, the world's best goalkeeper (according to Eoin Hand, pre-match on RTE Radio) gift-wraps an equaliser to awake us from our second-half slumber? We forgive you, Shay.

Both of you have toiled long enough - 10 hard years - to make it back to the big time without us getting all churlish in your crowning moment.

In keeping with the festival mood, RTE TV's three wise men - Messrs Dunphy, Giles and Brady - did nothing to sully the party atmosphere.

Yes, they would all like to see Trap "modify" his tactics for the Euro jamboree, but they aren't expecting a Damascus-like conversion on the road to Gdansk, one that sees full-backs demanding the ball from the aforementioned Given, or even doing the unthinkable -- an occasional overlap inside the opposing half.

For now, though, we should be happy, nay delighted, that we've a full-back who might pop up and score from a corner. And a defence, led by Richard of the lionhearts, that is resolute to the end.

And while Ireland most assuredly "are not Barcelona" (to quote Brady among others), it was refreshing to spend a night watching RTE where half the programme wasn't devoted to slaughtering the Irish centrefield. That's because Glenn Whelan was named Man of the Match. Or to paraphrase one RTE tweeter, "Gleniesta".

Last word to another Whelan - co-commentator Ronnie - who reminded us that the last time we qualified for the Euros, 24 long years ago, he had been "in a pub in England, not even watching" the match between Bulgaria and Scotland that sealed Ireland's first qualification for a major tournament.

The ghost of Gary Mackay has finally been laid to rest.


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