Monday 18 December 2017

Fans hoped for another 'Long' night in a tension-filled day for Irish sport

Polish and Irish fans soaking up the atmosphere at the match in Warsaw
Polish and Irish fans soaking up the atmosphere at the match in Warsaw
Adam Cullen

Adam Cullen

There was no fairytale ending for the boys in green in Warsaw last night after they were beaten by relentless Polish side.

Martin O'Neill's men suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat in a game that kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.

There was no streaming of supporters from the stadium before the final whistle, with both sets of fans on tenterhooks as the Irish offered an onslaught of forward plays well into the dying embers of what was a fiery match.

A 2-2 draw or a win would have secured our spot in France next year but now we must face a gruelling playoff match if we are to book our place on the plane.

The bitterly cold October night was heated by a number of exchanges on the pitch as John O'Shea was shown the door in the final seconds.

The voices of the travelling green army were silenced in the 13th minute when Grzegorz Krychowiak slotted home the opening goal of the game to the thunderous roars of the home fans.

But the Fields Of Athenry rang out again just three minutes later when a Jonathan Walters' penalty reignited the spark in the Irish fans who were tucked away in the heavens of the Stadion Narodowy.

The estimated 3,000 Irish fans attempted to out-sing the 50,000 home supporters with a chorus of 'Come On You Boys In Green'.

Plumes of pink and red smoke billowed from the stands in the Stadion Narodowy as the Polish supporters released their trademark flares.

In full voice, the home fans were akin to a volcanic eruption as their chants of 'Polska' and their impeccably timed stamping and clapping reverberated around the stadium.

Brothers Paul and Conor Hickey, from Sandyford, landed in Warsaw on Friday - where they said the atmosphere was at "another level".

Speaking after the game Trevor Morris from Navan, Co Meath said he wasn't too disappointed by the result.

"We can't complain too much. The Polish fans were great and the minute's silence for the victims of the Dublin fire was a beautiful touch. Bizarrely they stood up and clapped all the way through our national anthem as well," he said.

"We will party on anyway, the session continues," he added.

Patrick Kelly from Glasnevin, Dublin said, "apart from the cold it was a fantastic night."

"Look we kind of expected this. We really put it to them, and it was an absolutely electric game," he said.

"It would have been great to qualify without a playoff, but at least it gives us an excuse for two exciting games, whoever they will be against."

Earlier in the day, the Green Army - still marching on the high of Shane Long's now legendary goal against Germany in Dublin on Thursday night - invaded the streets of Warsaw, turning the Polish capital into a riot of colour and song.

'The Fields of Athenry' blasted from every pub and club in the city from midday, with jubilant fans also hoping for a win for the "lads with the oval ball" as well as their Euro hopefuls.

A Mexican restaurant, The Tortilla Factory, owned by a Dublin man, became the unlikely base for hundreds of Irish fans who flocked there to watch Ireland tackle France in the Rugby World Cup.

"This is 'super Sunday'... We're cheering on the lads with funny-shaped balls as well. It's the Irish against the French and the Poles today," said Brian Culleton from Carlow.

Both Irish teams march on, with the rugby team facing Argentina in the quarter finals and the soccer team still with all to play for with a playoff place for the Euros.

For Carlow woman Martina Minchin and her Polish partner Krzysztof Toin it was win-win - no matter who came out on top.

"Ireland and Poland are the two best countries in the world. We are the same in so many ways. For me, it would be great - no matter who wins - because I will cheer for them both at the Euros anyway," said Krzysztof, who has been living in Bagenalstown for the past 11 years.

Irish Independent

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