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Irish hopes fizzle out in Glasgow, as Roy sizzles on sideline

After a forgettable week for Roy Keane, came a night to forget for Ireland.

And while Ireland huffed and puffed on the pitch, Roy Keane was sizzling on the sideline, but this time it was with the referee.

Keane has a habit of hogging the limelight and perhaps that was no bad thing last night, as it managed to deflect attention from a disappointing performance here at Parkhead in Glasgow.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by Keane's fracas at a Dublin hotel with writer and Boston publican Frank Gillespie, and fans will question what effect that had on the Ireland squad as they fell to their first defeat in Group D in the European Qualifiers.

In the end, Ireland were undone by a superb finish from Scotland's Shaun Maloney.

"There was no stopping that. A moment of magic," offered fan David Flynn.

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Roy Keane before the match. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Roy Keane before the match. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

FAI chief Executive John Delaney and his girlfriend Emma English before the match. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

FAI chief Executive John Delaney and his girlfriend Emma English before the match. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Empty seats at the game. Photo: David Maher

Empty seats at the game. Photo: David Maher

A dejected supporter after Shaun Maloney scored Scotland's first goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

A dejected supporter after Shaun Maloney scored Scotland's first goal. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

Roy Keane found himself the centre of attention again during last night’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to Scotland after exchanging words with the referee on the sideline. Photo: PA

Roy Keane found himself the centre of attention again during last night’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to Scotland after exchanging words with the referee on the sideline. Photo: PA

John Caulwell from Dublin in Glasgow for last night's European qualifier with Scotland. Photo: Mark Condren

John Caulwell from Dublin in Glasgow for last night's European qualifier with Scotland. Photo: Mark Condren

Irish fans in Glasgow last night. Photo: Mark Condren

Irish fans in Glasgow last night. Photo: Mark Condren

Former Donegal football manager Jim McGuinness takes a photo with a fan at the match last night. Photo: Mark Condren

Former Donegal football manager Jim McGuinness takes a photo with a fan at the match last night. Photo: Mark Condren

Aoife Hayes from Dublin arriving into Glasgow ahead the match. Photo: Mark Condren

Aoife Hayes from Dublin arriving into Glasgow ahead the match. Photo: Mark Condren

Roy Keane during the match last night. Photo: PA

Roy Keane during the match last night. Photo: PA

Empty seats in the stand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

Empty seats in the stand. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

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Roy Keane before the match. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland's 3,000 fans were cramped into a tiny allocated away end but they made their voices heard early on with a rousing rendition of 'The Fields of Athenry', helped in no small part by the pockets of other Irish supporters in amongst the Scottish fans.

As fans had earlier claimed their positions in the stadium, talk had swirled around the return to Celtic Park of Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady. Would they be welcome? That script took an unusual twist as instead of being booed on every touch, the Irish gave McGeady an extra roar.

Many questioned why Celtic Park was chosen as the venue at all. Gordon Strachan claimed credit for that, saying he wanted the maximum number of tickets possible available for the Tartan Army.

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Given the controversy around the small allocation of tickets for Ireland fans, the Scots will have to explain all the empty seats around the ground.

Sadly, police confirmed a 22-year-old fan was injured and hospitalised after falling from a height in the stands at the stadium. The fan is believed to be Scottish.

Infiltrated

It was the biggest crowd at a Scotland home game in 25 years. Not since they qualified for Italia '90 have the Scots had 60,000 people at a match.

As it turned out, despite facing major obstacles, the Green Army well and truly infiltrated the Scottish regiment. And Keano must have been proud to see that corporate boxes, usually the reserve of men with a penchant for prawn sandwiches, were over-run with ordinary jersey-wearing Jocks. The menu was traditional fare of Haggis Neeps and Tatties.

And, of course, the Scots sought to exploit the Roy Keane row, declaring that Ireland's preparations were in chaos.

But when it came to 7.45pm last night, a headline in the local 'Daily Record' summed it up best: "Stop the clocks. Turn off phones. Lock the door. Switch on telly." All the 'distractions' counted for nothing.

And of that 'distraction' comedian Brendan Grace, the father-in-law of Gillespie, joked on 'The Late Late Show' that the incident was "only a friendly", adding: "I don't know what happened. Frank is a good guy."

Unusually few of the travelling support saw this as a 'must-win' game. It was a 'must-not-lose' situation. Yet it felt like 'the big one'.

It wasn't dynamic football. It certainly wasn't sexy. God knows at times it wasn't watchable.

But in the stadium it was always audible.

When the Scots got the goal, you couldn't really begrudge them.

Robbie Keane's return to Celtic was more muted than he might have expected.

The minutes clicked down, the hope faded, the crossbar was struck and ultimately the battle was lost.

As has often been the way for the travelling Irish fan of late, we won the sing-song, but lost the three points. Yet the war rages. The road to Euro 2016 is long and we're still on it.

As is now custom, the Green Army hung back long after the final whistle, lamenting 'The Fields of Athenry'.

Disappointment reigned on a night that promised so much in Glasgow.


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