WE'RE BACK! fans PARTy ON A night to remember

BRILLIANT: Let the good times roll... even a silly streaker can't ruin the Lansdowne magic

Niall O'Connor and Laura Butler

IT WAS a night of paper planes, Mexican waves and a drunken streaker who forgot to take his clothes off.

And out on the pitch there was the mere 'formality' of Ireland ensuring qualification for their first major tournament in 10 years and our first Euro Championships in 24.

This match was always going to be a drab affair, unless the Estonians managed to sneak a quick three goals, and make a match of it.

Instead Ireland fans, all 51,000 of them, provided the entertainment -- compliments of the ready-made paper planes thanks to the Go Green For November 15 cards supplied by 3 mobile. At one point, impressive green flying machines were sailing from the stands on to the pitch, a Mexican wave was in full flow and fans were Singing In Ukraine.

A summer of Polish phrasebooks, Ukrainian beers and endless road trips for awaits for the new Joxer generation.

From the very beginning this was going to be a special night, and for the first time the Aviva was packed out for a soccer match.

New President Michael D Higgins was the first star of the show and got a tremendous roar of approval when he was introduced to the crowd at the pre-match formalities.

A 12-ft Tricolour swayed neatly from the top of the Aviva Stadium as fans stood, hands on hearts, to sing Amhran na bhFiann. This was our night, and boy, did it feel special.


Any fears of a disastrous result quickly disappeared into the crisp November night when Stephen Ward slotted home neatly -- prompting choruses of The Fields Of Athenry to bounce against the stadium walls.

Dare we dream again?

Dare we recall the sheer jubilation felt during Germany '88 and Italia '90 -- our first big tournaments -- he'll yea, we were all but home and dry.

Dare we believe that just maybe Giovanni Trapattoni can turn this team into an outfit that could actually win this tournament? The football itself was far from spectacular, but even the harshest critic won't have cared.

Not even a second-half equaliser could dampen our spirits. The long wait is over. We're back -- and back with a bang. Even the tubby bare-chested buffoon who invaded the pitch and flashed his over-sized posterior when Estonia scored failed to kill the buzz.

This was a Green Army that had experienced its fair share of pair, heartache and despair. And the Joxers know they will experience it again, plenty of times over. But not this time.

Peter Gannon, from Harold's Cross, is gearing up for the campaign already and put in calls to hire a bus for him and his pals to follow the squad to Poland or the Ukraine in July 2012.


"There's 15 of us heading off and we're counting the days. We're going to make a road trip of it and call it the Shoe String Budget Tour," the 52-year-old told the Herald.

Templeogue native David Bolger (21) and pal Niall Delmar (21), from Rathgar, are scheming a camping trip to eastern Europe in their green strip.

"We're going to get a big college gang and make a proper tour of it."

Sligo locals Dermot Browne and Michael Costello rounded off their week in Tallinn with a night out at Lansdowne last night and are hoping to make it over to the Euro 2012 championship, if their wives let them.

"On the last count there were six of us hoping to head off for the matches, but we may have to bring the wives and make a long holiday of it."