COMMENT: Do Ireland fans really want to be known as the gobshites making a mockery of their national flag?
There is not much a now 37-year-old can really remember about life as a nine-year-old.
Twenty eight whole years on this earth can take its toll. One abiding memory that will be forever etched in the mind is kicking a ball off the kerb outside my house on a warm, sunny day in June, 1988.
With fingers squeezed firmly in both ears, the screams still found their way through my temporary barrier. We were in the dying minutes of Ireland’s first Euro 88 match against our mates across the water and, amazingly, were a goal up.
It was all way too much for a football-mad nine-year-old like me as the anxiety and nerves got the better of me. There was no way I could endure those final few minutes as the mighty England laid siege on Packie Bonner’s goal in the Neckarstadion on June 12, 1988.
We all know what happened. But let’s remind ourselves anyway.
“Moran will take the free kick. Wright, Stevens together..Galvin putting it across, mis-kick by Sansom, in goes Aldridge – AND HOUGHTON...1-0.” No amount of years on this earth can rid the mind of those immortal words by George Hamilton.
There were heroes all over the pitch, particularly Bonner as Ireland secured a famous victory thanks to Houghton’s sixth minute header.
There is an iconic, beautiful picture of the scoreboard in the stadium that day that read England 0 Rep Ireland 1.
Just underneath is a flag with the word Coleraine spelt out on the tri-colour. Simplicity personified.
With our next Euro adventure just around the corner, nostalgia can often get the better of you. Glancing through pictures from Euro 88 and you know the lads from Kells Celtic were there. Tuallamore too. Ballinteer lads, punters from the Submarine Bar and the Sligo folk all made their way to Germany.
We know because their patch was printed on their flags. A badge of honour, so to speak.
For years, fans have printed their area or football club on their national flag at football tournaments. It’s a simple gesture yet tells the world that you were there supporting your country. While purists may argue that writing anything on the national flag is in fact illegal, a simple slogan has always been accepted.
It’s very possible that our next generation of supporters might look at an iconic picture from France 2016 and see a convicted drug smuggler. Or sexual innuendo. Or maybe the word ‘Shit’? That’s right, the word ‘Shit’ emblazoned across the tri colour of Ireland. Sadly, the disrespect is widespread.
Or how about trying to explain to your son or daughter in years to come why Clinton Morrison’s arse is on the tri colour just below a beautiful scoreboard that reads Ireland 1 Belgium 0?
“Sorry son, I actually don’t know why Clinton’s arse is on our national flag. Or why there is a condom analogy alongside a picture of Jon Walters.
Or try explaining why somebody unfurled a picture of Richard Keogh and the words: @Be prepared to be destroyed by the Long, hard Dick of Ireland."
The mind boggles.
There are too many moronic personalised flags to mention that will make it to France. Flags that will feed the Irish stereotype of drunks just there for a good time.
I haven’t even mentioned Father Ted yet. It seems every attention seeking viral hunter is trawling through boxsets of Father Ted to come up with a slogan that will trump all others and get shared across the internet.
Whatever happened to supporting the team?
Whatever happened to a simple statement of where you are from or what local football team you belong to?
Maybe we are all a little guilty. Maybe we accepted a select few branded flags at the start before the avalanche came.
The traditional flag is slowly being replaced by people who are happy to print the face of convicted drug mule Michaella McCollum on the tri colour alongside the words: “Can I come home for the Euros lads? I packed my bags myself this time.”
"We’re a small country, we’re up against it, but let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again," said Roy Keane following a 4-0 defeat against Spain at Euro 2012.
“I think the players and even the supporters, they all have to change their mentality, it’s just nonsense from players speaking after the games about how great the supporters are.”
Back then, this writer penned an article arguing that Ireland’s rendition of the Fields of Athenry, while down four zip against the then world champions, was simply a lament and a show of defiance from Ireland fans. It was in no way a boisterous sing song whilst having the craic.
Not for me anyway. And certainly not for regular Ireland match goers.
Sadly, with big tournaments comes a mass of fans who, it would seem, just want to be there for the craic.
You take your seat in the Stade de France, ready to answer your country’s call and you roll out this effort – what on earth will Roy Keane think?