Saturday 16 December 2017

So much more to this match than the result

The eyes of the football world will be on the Aviva Stadium tomorrow
The eyes of the football world will be on the Aviva Stadium tomorrow
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Our two nations have made up off the field. Did we ever think we would see the day? The dismemberment of the stadium formerly known as Lansdowne Road by English football hooligans needs to be replaced at the front of the cue of memories by a more orderly, sporting and peaceful occasion.

There are bad eggs on both sides but the English are many dozens ahead in the egg count.

The bad eggs are anything but free range. The thugs are organised and violent. The men of violence have no mandate from their own people.

There can be no doubt that the lads who wrecked the stadium Lansdowne Road back in 1995 were the political and emotional successors of the Black and Tans. Sport was only a front for xenophobia and having a bit of fun.

Yet if you were to do a vox pop in a pub in England, the chances are that not even one of the assembly would ever have heard of the murderous mercenaries.

The black and tan in England is a sudsy drink made from a dark beer and a pale beer. It's a palatable enough sort of a pint but you wouldn't go so far as to say there's a taste of more from it.

Go to a pub in Ireland and ask the same questions and at least 100pc of those present will know all about the Tans and, what's more, every man of them will tell you was it was their own great-grandfather who freed Ireland, all on his own.


It's very easy to nominate ancestors as heroes when all the eyewitnesses are dead.

Sport is history, and sport and history are inextricably linked. In fact you learn more about the real feelings of a nation through sport. Hitler's Olympics were a warning that was not taken acted upon.

If there was ever a decommissioning of a rugby team, well that was on the night before Ireland played England in Croke Park. The English were given a history lesson on the eve of battle.

Most of the English lads hadn't the slightest idea just how badly their army had behaved in Ireland and in Croke Park.

It might be going too far to suggest that guilt got the better of the English team, but they weren't themselves. You'd get more aggression out of a teddy bear at a hippy picnic.

The rest of England followed. Their team lost but in doing so showed respect and a different kind of bravery from the usual physical battles.

So could the plan be to have historian Diarmaid Ferriter load the guilt on the English football over the breaking-up of Lansdowne Road?

The English footballers have been abused by their own, many times over. Both racially and personally.

Maybe we could ask the English to start the game where it ended last time. We were 1-0 up when the seats started to rain down from the stands.

The FAI are good at knocking the last out of the powers that be. John Delaney caught that smirking git Sepp Blatter for a handy €5m.

A precedent has been set. There are strong rumours circulating in legal circles that the Kerry County Board have issued proceedings against Offaly's Seamus Darby.

Imagine if the Thierry Henry case had gone to court. There would surely have been a class action from the Irish fans.

"The brain is held together with dental floss and playdough your worshipfulness after I hit the roof when Thierry handled the ball.

"What's more, your mightyness, I've lost all interest in the other thing. I wants condensation, your excellency, for loss of conjugular rights and for the wife too who was very fond of that sort of carry-on."

For any English folk reading who have reached this far down without giving up, "the other thing" is you know what.

We won't go into much detail about the influence of the Catholic Church on our sexuality, but take it from me all this morality Scrabble goes back to the time when sex was a four-letter word in Ireland.

Yes, we're friends now. Most of us. The truth is the good English detest the bad English even more than we do, and the good are very much in the majority

Somehow I think tomorrow's big game will be more of a friendly for the England team than us.

The Irish players are paid far less than their English colleagues and our boys will get stuck in.

The English players will be thinking of the holidays. The superstars will be dreaming of a sun-bed in a part of Spain too dear for lager louts.

The Irish players' aisling is that their name will be the answer to "who stuck the ball in the English net?" Immortality is the prize for scoring the winning goal against England.

There's always the danger of trouble from those who are anything but friendly, although the Gardai will be well prepared. You would hate to see the thugs hijack what will be a meeting of neighbourly nations in a place where new history needs to be made.


It's so tough on the Gardai. One wrong move, or a momentary loss of control under extreme circumstances, and they can find themselves behind bars with the very people they were trying to protect us from.

Maybe the bad boys might not show up. We are very near in time to the beginning of the traditional beer vomiting season and pinkest bellybreast contests in the Costa de Sol.

Who could pass up on the old pastimes of peeing in the pool and bonking the best pal's missus while he lies comatose and snoring on the sofa bed?

I promised a very scared small boy who was taken to the 1995 game by his dad that I would get the bad lads. Promise kept.

It's always sweet to beat England, but tomorrow we will be content if all goes well off the field of play.

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