Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rugby odyssey over -- time to support Trap

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Yours truly, the self- appointed interpreter of the collective national opinion, looked into my heart. Our people want a president Brian O'Driscoll, but he's not old enough. You have to be 35 to run, yet a young lad of half that age is eligible to die for his country.

Brian is a born leader who had 100pc approval rating from the fans in New Zealand.

It would have been lovely to have been there with the youngsters, but we have promises to keep -- to the banks. This was a best day of your life experience. The players felt part of it. They came home, but most of the fans stayed or crossed the Tasman Sea to their new home in Australia.

All emigrants plan to come back some day. The sad truth -- and I hate to have to write it -- is most will stay overseas.

It was the same back in my time and in my dad's time. As we watched the joyous support in the stadium, there was a sense you were in some way attending an Australian wake. It's not that Oz is a bad place if you're 25 and you haven't a job. There's comfort in numbers and dignity in work. I feel for the parents.

We can sing away our troubles for a while and even though the pillow cases will be wet with tears, we all try to lift each other and make the best of it. I was sad but happy and very, very proud.

But the show isn't over. This weekend the Fexco Asian GAA games take place in Seoul. The diaspora will meet up from all over Asia and the Middle East.

I'm told by my former behind- the-bar star Sinead Moriarty that the tournament is as hard-fought as any here with the appropriate level of collateral socialising.

But lest we forget Ireland, we were beaten in New Zealand. We have one excuse and that is our boys had to play Wales just six days after the tough Italian game with a plane journey thrown in.

Wales effectively had a two-week break. Their romp against Fiji was as near as you get to a tip rugby World Cup.

Ireland dominated that first half, particularly in the forwards, but in the second half we looked tired. There was a selection error, yet there are no recriminations as nearly all of the pundits got it completely wrong. Jonny Sexton was much better suited to taking on the big boys from Wales.

Yet the coach has done so much for us as a nation and for Munster too. Declan Kidney is a conscientious and dignified man, whom, I suspect, hurts far more than he shows outwardly. He did his best and so did the team. Ireland died with their boots on. You can ask no more than that. It's not the killing of a man, but how he dies.

Our soccer team have not yet secured their favoured place in the hearts and minds of the Irish people. There are valid reasons, some of which are not the fault of Trap's men. Rugby lends itself to heroism and the physical scars are evidence in itself the players are almost ready to lay down their lives for the jersey.

Soccer players seldom get the same opportunity to wear the reminders of every blow and tackle. But our soccer men are prepared to have a go. Richard Dunne's display in Russia was as courageous as we have seen from any Irish sportsman.

I like soccer, but for me it's not GAA or rugby where the action is non-stop and the physical confrontations are fierce. That's not the players' fault. And the skill is, at times, a thing of rare beauty.


The soccer jersey has been tarnished by a few individuals who forget that some day they'll return home old and unforgiven. The public perception is the dog's chiropodist appointment or the servicing of a Maserati or a dodgy bird takes precedence over the call-up to play for your country.

The stereotype is unfair to the great majority of Irish soccer men. We never hear anyone feel sorry for Shay Given, who might never get to play in a 'major' again, yet the Donegal man has never let Ireland down.

The team do not play in the Brazilian way, but give the Brazilians 12 months of rain, limit their pick to five million and they, too, might struggle.

Trap's men are just two games away from the Euro finals. They have been lucky -- but we deserve a bit of luck. Need I remind you of the pickpocket T Henry.

Irish people pay far too much attention to pundits and take their lead from TV analysis.

We are entertainment and once you accept that, then it all makes sense. The outbursts, the provocation, the bluster, the wit and humour are just showbiz. It's the players who actually score the goals. For us lot it's a case of send in the clowns.

Make up your own mind and then do as I say. Get behind your team. They deserve that much at the very least.

Irish Independent

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