Similarities between Germany and Ireland might be few, but one commonality seems to be shared between them both. Any free space within the city is coveted by b**stard property developers, with about as much respect for art and history as they have for planning codes. This time they’re looking to rip down parts of the Berlin wall to knock up a few shoddy flats. For fuck’s sake! The bits they’re looking to bulldoze are the ones with all the famous murals.
Japan… Korea… Saipan… the last Ireland World Cup appearance had highs, lows, Pocari Sweat and more than a few ten-euro pints. Memories are blurred, flashbacks to late nights in the Church Pub in Ueno and early mornings in Foley’s Bar in Roppongi.
The football though, setting the Roy Keane unpleasantness aside, was magic. Mattie Holland’s screamer against Cameroon, Duffer bursting the net against the Saudi’s in Yokohama cheered on by 85,000 fans and Robbie Keane’s sickener against the Germans. The latter goal resulting in myself ending up 10 rows down and about 40 seats across from where I’d started before the celebrations subsided.
So, a decade on, what have we learned? That a small country can bring thousands of lunatics half-way across the world. The never-say-die attitude that scares the bejaysus out of other teams. And that footballing feel-good stories occasionally happen?
The son of a Dublin cabinet maker, Napper Tandy cut a revolutionary swathe through the Dublin body politic in the 1770′s, advocating a complete ban on English imported goods for one, separation of Ireland from Britain and the booting out of the Duke of Leinster from the Irish Volunteers. So, after pissing off more than a fair share of the conservative/whig faction in Dublin (history’s version of today’s Leinster rugby fans), Napper was required to beat a hasty retreat to the continent, more specifically Paris.
Now Paris in the 1790′s was I suppose what the St. Pauli Hafenstraße was in the 1980′s, anarcho-punks getting lashed on cheap beer and planning how to deliver good kick to the nether-regions of the state/authority/der Polizei/the King of England/monarchies etc. With no Thierry Henry “on hand” to be cheating lads out of World Cup qualifying spots, it seems the lifestyle of boozed-up revolutionaries suited the Irish rebels billeted in the Collège des Irlandais beside the Pantheon.
However, Napper Tandy, “notwithstanding his vices and his lack of all solid capacity”, would not be one to back down from a paying gig when there was one in the offing, so in 1798 he decided to invade Ireland… just himself… with just one ship. Now military planning, logistics and common sense didn’t seem to be high on the agenda for this enterprise, and after “invading” Donegal for a bit, he was brought back to the ship suffering from the effects of drink. A sore head the next morning probably made him see the invasion for what it was, and deciding discretion being the better part of valour, Napper Tandy and company promptly sailed around the north of Scotland, captured a British ship, and arrived in Hamburg.
Arrested by Der Hamburg Polizei, they had him deported back to England to stand trial. This pissed off the French to the extent that they blockaded Hamburg by sea, and threatened war by land for this affront to the bould Napper Tandy. Thinking probably that he would cause more problems for the coppers back in Paris than any military bother back in Ireland, he was allowed to go into exile in France. It was said that Napoleon made the stipulation for his release a pre-condition to the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. He died in Bordeaux in 1803, no doubt a bit pissed off, but comforted by the decent grub and cheap wine.
I assert that Paul McShane is habitually derided by big fat Premiership-supporting morons for the sole reason that they heard someone else blattering on in the media, coupled with an ill-founded need to repeat said received opinions to their mates.
The vast majority (60% or more) of the Irish support are morons who’s sole experience of football is what Eamonn Dunphy and Gary Lineker tell them to believe. In other words, the majority of people are mindless sheep willing to re-state an opinion in the belief that it will prove to be more popular than correct. This particular piece of invective viz-a-viz Paul McShane has a precendent in the carry-on about Phil Babb in the mid to late 1990′s. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nowt wrong with a robust sporting critique, or a well-founded observation of apparent footballing skills, but the spleen vented about McShane is done for purposes other than player criticism…. it’s done because a sizeable majority of people will repeat what they’re told without thinking.
Political and football journalism are too closely related than either ‘discipline’ would care to admit. Personality rather than well-constructed factual argument often takes center stage, perhaps because thinking for oneself is difficult or maybe due to a latent fear of being out-of-step with the majority opinion.
So, with the limited availability of RTE and Irish rag newspapers in Poland, the Irish fans may be faced with a prospect more formidable than a book on Polish dialectics… the requirement to defend an opinion without the psychological spoon-feeding of the media.
- Pennney’s novelty Ireland T-shirts
- Factor 50
- Several Count John McCormack LPs
- Polish zobs
- Elvis-style sunglasses
- Cargo shorts
- Handkerchief knotted at four corners and worn as a hat
- A selection of Bohs home and away kits from 2005 to 2012
- 1950′s George McFly disguise (always useful).
- The Drunken Eejit’s guide to Lodz and Beyond
- Glue, coloured cards, macaroni pieces and glitter
- A bottle of Alka-seltzer
- Spare liver
- Bosco DVD to annoy the locals
- Anti-Narcissism Mirror
- An inflatable hammer
It’s almost upon us! The first “official” Irish excursion into the big-time of World football since 2002. That’s a full decade! Jesus, and I was at the last one… damn, I’m feeling old. Over those intervening ten years, between previous close calls, hopeful wins shameful almost-draws with San Marino and downright dirty French cheating the lads have finally got this qualification lark sussed. Result, 25,000 Paddies decamping to Eastern Europe for the month of June 2012.
As of this moment it’s a mere 19 days to the Croatia match in Poznan, or 456 hours to those pedants who may be reading this. The plan to get out there has been formulated in a most drunken ad-hoc manner, but there’s a plan in place all the same. Fly into Berlin, train to Lodz, and then bus/plane to Poznan and Gdansk for the games. It’s supposed to be relatively alright in terms of price for the rest of the country, but the match venues have horrible rates on the evening of any game (e.g., quoting 1,500 for one night in some 3-star spot in Gdansk).
Anyway, according to various sources from Poland, under ‘normal operating conditions’ the country seems to be fond of a few spirituous beverages (priced about 1 to 2 euro a pint), the locals are friendly and most of them speak a bit of Béarla, and the roads are supposed to be pot-holed riven bog tracks (no change there so). Temperature wise, I fear the common or garden Paddy to develop a severe case of red-neck, or in the case of adherents to the Carlow nightclub scene, more of a red-neck. In three weeks, the good people of Poland may wake up one morning to find their streets choked with drunken stumbling raving 18-stone bog-trotters roasted a nice shade of bright pink and looking for “the auld bit of craic”.