The cat is in the sack!

Now that a place in Euro 2012 has been secured, it really is possible to look forward to a summer of international football with Irish involvement for the first time in a decade. The already famous reference to the Estonian cat in the sack has provided an early taster of what should be a momentous few weeks for Irish soccer fans and non-fans alike.

As would be expected, the Irish ‘victory’ (well, in Estonia at least…) was the main topic of conversation for the primary school boys of my class today, all of whom would have been far too young to have any memories of Ireland’s last exploits in a summer of international football, the 2002 World Cup.

Slugger’s football fraternity will fondly remember the now legendary row between Roy Keane and then manager, Mick McCarthy, which resulted in the former quitting the team before the first ball had been kicked.

The subsequent television rows, radio sketches and column inches devoted to the Keane departure and gallant performances of a Robbie Keane-led Irish team would live long in the memory, though the excruciating loss to the Spanish in a penalty shoot out would at least give us a taste of the pain inflicted more regularly on our English neighbours at such tournaments.

That appearance bridged the gap to the earlier halcyon period of Irish international football (1982-94) when both international teams made appearances at two World Cups between 1982 and 1994, with their respective appearances sandwiched by the Republic’s debut showing at the European Championships in what still remains my most cherished soccer memories: Stuttgart, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan and a wicked Dutch bounce that ended dreams of a semi-final appearance. In many ways, Euro ’88 marked the passing of a baton in terms of Irish international football, with the fortunes of the Republic and Northern Ireland contrasting sharply since, with the former now securing a place at five international tournaments since the North’s last showing at Mexico 1986.

With Eamon Dunphy and Johnny Giles still accompanying Bill O’Herlihy on RTE (and hopefully to be joined by Grame Sounness) it promises to be another summer in which the headlines are made in the studios as much as on the pitch. The draw is set for December 2nd and, intriguingly or ominously (take your pick), an Ireland-England contest remains a real possibility due to seeding arrangements which have Ireland in the fourth pot and England in the second pot. 

Roll on the summer!

  • lamhdearg

    now can you argue with that.

  • lamhdearg

    did i miss something.

  • Should be exciting.
    But is the cat related to a pig in a poke?

  • Dec

    ‘and a wicked Dutch bounce that ended dreams of a semi-final appearance.’

    Not to mention Van Basten being offside by at least two yards.

  • Mark

    Euro 88 ……

    We won a match we should have lost , drew a match we should have won and lost a match we should have drawn .

  • John Ó Néill

    The Saipan incident also prompted the musical I, Keano. After Ray Houghton scored the only goal in the Stuttgart England-Republic of Ireland game in 1988 there was a slagging match outside Beechmount Leisure Centre between some kids and two RUC men. One RUC man asked the kids what they were celebrating for when it had taken a Brit to get them there. One of the kids reportedly told the cop: “I don’t know what you are talking about, it took sixteen of them to get you up here.”

  • sonofstrongbow

    A success by the ROI’s international football team used as an excuse to have a dig at Northern Ireland’s team and (in a bazaar turn) the RUC. Surely this must disprove the old cliche that a team gets the ‘fans’ it deserves?

  • JR

    Lighten up SOS. We all have a soft spot for the Ireland 2nds behind the banter.

  • iluvni

    Given their tapping up of young players who have come through our underage teams, I dont think the FAi team have ever gone to a finals will less goodwill from Northern Ireland.

  • stewart1

    iluvni – So when NI ‘tap up’ players from other associations it’s ok?

    I really don’t understand NI supporters complaining about Irish players opting to play for Ireland rather than the British association on the Island, half the current NI u19 support the Republic and that’s not counting full internationals like Niall McGinn.

    It’s about time the massive public funding of the IFA was withdrawn and given to a body that respects diversity and choice

  • Dazzler

    “I dont think the FAi team have ever gone to a finals will less goodwill from Northern Ireland.”

    Are you serious? I was in Estonia and Dublin and I dont think I ever met as many northern supporters. On the one road. North men south men comrades all

  • Dazzler

    As for Northern players opting to play for Ireland. Surely it is up to the individual himself to choose. What are the FAI to do……refuse to pick Irish players that want to play for Ireland?

  • Mark

    iluvni ,
    ” I don’t think the FAI have ever gone to a finals with less goodwill from Northern Ireland …… ”

    Considering this is only our fourth appearance at a finals and the fact that the mainland I mean England played in two of them and will participate in this one means you’re probably right ( at last ) .

    But iluvni , don’t blame the FAI . When you tap someone up , you don’t put a gun to their head or hypnotize them . You make them an offer . It’s a professional game and it’s up to the players .

    Do you still remember the songs from USA 94 ? .

  • Dec

    ‘“Given their tapping up of young players who have come through our underage teams, I dont think the FAi team have ever gone to a finals will less goodwill from Northern Ireland.’

    Obviously you mean Northern Ireland ‘fans’, however I’d be interested to know what the reason for the lack of ‘goodwill’ was in 1993 when the Republic qualified for the following years World Cup.

  • Dec

    ‘So when NI ‘tap up’ players from other associations it’s ok?

    Apparently so, at least going by that cretin who runs the OWC website, trying to ‘poach’ current England U21 player, Connor Wickham, for Northern Ireland on twitter last night.

  • DT123

    “As for Northern players opting to play for Ireland. Surely it is up to the individual himself to choose. What are the FAI to do……refuse to pick Irish players that want to play for Ireland”?

    Apparently the FAI are refusing to pick them because they are crap.Will any of the “defectors” even make the squad for the Euro’s ,never mind the 1st team?

    The Republic team playing in Poland/Ukraine,with none of the Northern defectors ,even in the squad,could do more to make up the minds of any more waiverers ,than their burning desire to represent the “real” Oireland team.

  • Dec

    ‘The Republic team playing in Poland/Ukraine,with none of the Northern defectors ,even in the squad,could do more to make up the minds of any more waiverers ,than their burning desire to represent the “real” Oireland team.’

    Yes, far better to be regularly tanked by small Baltic nations in a shithole of a stadium.

  • BluesJazz

    Most of the players are English and don’t even play in the premiership. England v Germany final.

  • Dazzler,

    On the one road. North men south men comrades all…

    You could probably have chosen a better line; one of the alternatives to that one finishes:

    “Northmen, southmen comrades all, soon there’ll be no protestants at all”

    I do hope that’s not the version you meant?

  • Dec

    Bluejizz

    10 of the starting 11 against estonia were Irish-born. Can’t you perform even the most rudimentary fact-checking before trolling?

  • JR

    Oniell,

    Bit of a straw man offence there. I for one have never herd that version.

  • JR,

    It exists and is sung as an alternative by a minority of Celtic fans rather than the line the Wolfetones finish with.

    Dodgy to quote it.

  • Well at least I know my birthday present will be the new Ireland Euro top……presumably there will be a new one.
    And that sorts out the grandsons without much bother.

    Cant really see us doing well in Ukraine/Poland but ater a ten year absence its a timely boost for Ireland and its fans.
    And a blow to “our wee country” folk who will affect not to care but alas the fates of both teams are linked.

    With one 25th in FIFA rankings and the other 80th or whatever,there is no real parity. Ireland is the local team who are not top drawer but will get occasional glimpses of the Premiership……..West Ham United perhaps. Norn Iron is the local team who will never be anywhere near the Premiership……Dagenham & Redbridge perhaps.
    And when there is no parity, the local kids go with the flow as well as family ties……so the kids in Ilford, Dagenham, Leytonstone are more likely to be ‘appy ‘ammers.
    So the shirt sales to the 4 year olds and the Panini stickers for the 9 year olds and the “Irish News” pull out will influence an entire new generation.
    And of course the Ireland tops will be highly visible in our shopping centres and High Streets.
    BBC Norn Iron will even senda reporter to cover it for us.

    Of course some will say “I support Norn Iron but I like to see the Republic do well”. Or indeed vice versa. But such “lets get alongerism” is alien in the zero sum game of North of Ireland politics.
    And isnt really within the understanding of the vast majority of football fans.
    To many in the “red half” of Manchester……it will not be a consolation if Manchester Citeh win the Premiership.
    Or Arsenal/Tottenham.
    Indeed if Glasgow Rangers get relegated, I cant see Glasgow Celtic fans being sorry.

    Thats not how Football. Or zero sum politics works.
    Simply put, Irelands qualification is bad news for “our wee country”.

  • lamhdearg

    Fjh, “Indeed if Glasgow Rangers get relegated, I cant see Glasgow Celtic fans being sorry.” maybe true, but rather short sighted. the biggest joy in football is to beat your fearest rival.

  • lamhdearg

    fiercest, sorry

  • Indeed I dont expect either Celtic or Rangers to be relegated any time soon.

  • Lionel Hutz

    OWC has been hillarious lately. They are raging at BBC NI paying so much attention. It has entered the twilight zone.

    The real tipping point will be when the Euros go to 24 teams. Ireland will qualify most of the time probably.

    We may even get protestant NI players declaring for Ireland for footballing reasons.

  • Greenflag

    O’Neill

    Never heard that version -you may be behind the times . A more accurate line to judge by the state of religion in the Republic today would be

    “Northmen, southmen comrades all, soon there’ll be no protestants or catholics at all at all ‘

    On the other hand when one reads of Taoiseach Kenny’s Road to Berlin in an early 21 st century version of the 11th century Road to Canossa (Gang nach Canossa) these past few days as the Mother of the Nation -(several nations at this stage ) Kanzlerin Angela Merkel demands a birds eye view of the Irish Budget in advance then perhaps this version would be more accurate although to be frank I’d take the Echte Freunde bit with a grain of salt .

    Heres two versions =they seem as popular in Cologne as at Parkhead.

    http://www.youtube.com/watchv=vfhvv5gywyU&feature=related

  • Greenflag

    sorry the first of the two links above does’nt work -should be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfhvv5gywyU