Tuesday 20 August 2019

Magnificent Boys in Green repay Irish fans' faith

Ireland players celebrate in the dressing room after the game
Ireland players celebrate in the dressing room after the game
Ireland supporters Joe Haughey with brothers James, Christopher and Michael McParland, all from Co Tyrone, at the game
Jon Walters and Richard Keogh celebrate the goal that secured Ireland’s place at the Euro 2016 finals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo: Ramsey Cardy
Ireland stars Aiden McGeady, James McCarthy, Stephen Ward and Robbie Keane celebrate in the dressing room after the game. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Jon Walters, David Meyler and Robbie Brady with President Michael D Higgins in the dressing room after the win
FAI chief executive John Delaney and his partner Emma English kiss as the final whistle approaches
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

After the final whistle, the home side changed into another green jersey for their lap of honour - one that read: "Bring on France 2016."

There was no better place to be than right here at the Aviva Stadium with a smile on every face.

When the second goal landed, the penny dropped. This baby was in the bag. We were off to the Euros.

Relief, ecstasy and downright joy saw the Green Army erupt in their seats, dancing in giddy, silly, wonderful exuberance.

"You're not singing. You're not singing any more," mocked thousands of Irish fans, pointing the finger at the admittedly tiny number of away supporters.

There was definitely a nastier edge than we are used to seeing at the Aviva.

But it could be argued that the travelling side had 'asked for it' at the outset, when a number of errant fans from Bosnia and Herzegovina defiantly failed to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the Paris bombings on Friday.

It was poor form and the Green Army let them know it, with a chorus of unanimous boos echoing around the stadium.

And no sooner had the match started and Bosnia Herzegovina in possession, did the boos ensue again.

But at the final whistle, all animosity was forgotten in a wave of utter joy.

Home fans had predicted a less-than-exciting game - but, they could not have been more wrong. This was fantastic stuff to watch with never a dull moment.

Controversy, opportunities and breathtakingly near misses were never too far away. Not to mention two peaches of goals.

The second half saw the visitors come back into the action with as much of a vengeance as they could muster. Which was not enough in the face of a determined onslaught by the home side.

And to be in the Aviva when there's a smile on every face is really something to behold. As the final whistle went, the euphoria was literally awe-inspiring. Not that the fans had not been expecting as much.

"Two-nil to Ireland," correctly predicted Brian Killeen, from Clondalkin in Dublin.

Three lads up from Shannon, Co Clare were slightly less optimistic.

"One nil - Jon Walters, please God," said Brian Keane. "In the 85th minute," chimed in friend JP Buckley.

"I'm very confident since last Friday," said Brian. "I thought they were very poor."

Leah Phillips (21), from Clarenbridge, Co Galway, was already planning on starting the savings process for the Euros. She thought the boys in green would have no option but to give it 100pc.

"I think being at home with all that support will make all the difference," she predicted.

Perennial Ireland fan, Shane Peppard from Dublin, was out in force as usual - hail, rain or snow - in blue body paint, in the ultimate show of support.

'Bishop' Darren McConway and friends Gavin Fletcher and Declan Barr had travelled down from Derry to the match in anticipation of a seismic Irish victory.

"Yep, it'll be a good one," said Darren.

But Bosnian fan Victoria Colic, who is living in Ireland and had come to the match with a large group of friends, predicted that Bosnia and Herzegovina would not go down easily.

It wasn't just a good game by the players. The home supporters put on a dazzling display too, with the Aviva full almost to capacity.

The Green Army were on their feet for the bulk of the match, cheering and bellowing support. A beachball was incongruously tossed through the crowd of hardcore supporters as 'The Fields of Athenry' rang out.

When at one stage a group of shirtless, dancing Bosnian crew seemed to be taking over in terms of noise levels, the Irish started up with 'Come On You Boys in Green'.

There were lots of almost-theres from but finally, Jon Walters took a penalty that saw the ball slip calmly into the bottom left corner.

The Aviva erupted, every man, woman and child in the Green Army bursting into giddy, exuberant dance in the first electric display of the night.

With no other football of note taking place anywhere in Europe, all eyes were on Ireland.

There was some indignation that the BBC had apparently tried to swoop in at the last minute to gain all the best spots for their cameras. It was pointed out to them that the home channels had actually paid for this privilege.

And what a privilege it was, as the Aviva erupted all over again as Jon Walters ensured that, yes,- we were off to the Euros.

Irish Independent

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