Russians bear up better on a Friday night of football firsts

A dejected Annie Leddy, from Ballyfermot, Dublin, after the disappointing defeat. Photo: Sportsfile

Jason O'Brien

'FRIDAY Night Lights' was the name of a poor film a few years ago.

'Friday Night's A Great Night for Football' was the name of a poorer song further back still.

But Friday night football under the lights at the new Lansdowne Road?

Well, the best John Delaney can console himself with is that it has future potential, albeit somewhat diminished, this morning.

The jury is out. And many more performances like the first 50 minutes last night and it is highly likely that the Lansdowne crowd would join it.

The last 20, however, was a different matter. Bottle that, John, and you might even shift those 10-year tickets.

"I was wondering if we could get anything like the atmosphere we used to have on a wet night in the old stadium when a big team came to town and the place would be in danger of collapsing," Michael Crowley from Rathfarnham said.

"But tonight there was more than a hint of the old Lansdowne Road," he added.

"It showed some of the old magic, some potential. For the first 27 minutes."

That was the moment Russia went 0-2 up in the Euro 2012 qualifier, and some of those present decided to investigate if the beer was really as expensive as has been reported.

It was. They decided to investigate the taste.

And last night was a night of firsts for the polished arena.

It was the first football game to get the pulse out of its comfort zone, and the first to get -- well, almost -- a full house of 50,411.

It was the first to feature any significant away support and, all combined, it meant for a rollicking affair, with the giddiness of the occasion spreading on to the pitch.

A great atmosphere, then, but the Russian players coped with it better at first. Perhaps it has something to do with their once-fabled space programme? Then gravity struck.

"At three down I thought there was no chance," Collette Creighton from Co Meath admitted.

"But they showed some real heart, and everyone was on their feet after the second."

Nobody, you imagine, was more relieved than Mr Delaney.

But people wanted something out of this for varying reasons, but mainly, as usual, for some sort of escapism.

"Debt, bonds, unsubstantiated bondholders, senior bondholders, FAS, Anglo, Fingers and Seanie, the dole," Karl Rhatigan from Galway had said just before kick-off.

"You get to take a time out from the incessant talk of missing billions and unpaid taxes."

Then reality hit home at the new home of Irish football, before unreality beckoned for a while.

But the rollercoaster ended with another first at the new Lansdowne: a competitive defeat.

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