The Rocky Road to Poland…via Hungary

With less than a week until Irish international football’s latest tournament story begins to be written, Damian Dempsey’s Rocky Road to Poland has been well played out as the excitement and sense of anticipation continues to build. 

The 73 years young Italian manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, will become the oldest ever manager of a European Championship finals team when Ireland face Croatia on Sunday.

The Foley- McShane squad inclusion row kept the headline writers happy for a few days and represented a neat -if not too happy for some- throwback to the Charlton era, whilst the competent second half performance against Bosnia did nothing to dampen the sense of optimism surrounding the squad.

Trapattoni has declared that tonight’s first eleven against Hungary will likely start the initial group fixture against Croatia next Sunday, so emerging unscathed in terms of injuries will be of paramount importance tonight for the Irish team.

Aidan McGeady’s excellent outing against Bosnia has likely ensured that he will beat James McClean to the starting eleven, and indeed he has been preferred to the Derry man for tonight’s Hungarian fixture.

Ireland’s group includes current World Cup and European Champions, Spain, as well as Italy and Croatia- hence the long odds on Ireland reaching the knock out stage.

 Whether it’s 3 and out for Ireland or a historic quarter final appearance will become clear by the time the full time whistle is blown in the Italian fixture on June 18th. 

Personally, I think the Dutch or Germans will lift the trophy in just over a month’s time, with England also performing impressively but falling at the semi-final hurdle.

As for Ireland, it’s a case of the heart versus the head. Taking something from the Croatia match is essential and will at least ensure Irish prospects survive the Spanish match, leaving Irish fans hopeful of another glorious Meadowlands-like moment against an Italian international side once managed by Trapattoni.

Time will tell…..

  • Im not optimistic.
    The group is tough and it looks like two years too far for some squad members and two years too soon for others.
    Best I am hoping for is to gain experience ahead of World Cup qualifiers.
    Ireland is firmly in the second tier of European teams…….with (for example) Belgium, Austria, Switzerland who can expect to reach major championship finals …….occasionally.
    Five championships (two Euros and three World Cups) in 24 years is a decent enough return.
    Three matches to be played at least.
    Without minnows from Asia and Central America, its harder to win matches in Europe with 16 qualifiers than at World Cup with 32 qualifiers.
    But at least ten days of involvement.

  • andnowwhat

    My liver is already moaning in anticipation.

  • Dec

    4 points from Croatia and Italy is not beyond the realms of possibility and here’s hoping Spain have qualified by the time we meet them.

  • lamhdearg2

    Sorry Dec, the RoI are Spains second match.

  • Dec

    Well, there goes that plan. 3 points against Croatia seem a must then.

  • Ruarai

    England won’t win a single game Chris. Though I think they’ll score in 2 of them.

    Ireland will beat a depleated Croatia 2-1, draw with a tired Spain and defeat the already eliminated I-ties 1-0.

    Another snarky article from Brian Kerr in this morning’s Irish Times:

    “Liam Tuohy’s Tots” era of the 1980s, in contrast with what was to follow under Jack, was a time of brilliant passing football from the back.”

    So good it passed right on by any whiff of success.

    Brian, you feel there was some great injustice done to you for being fired. We get it. Please move on.

    In article after article Kerr’s bitterness towards the man who’s succeeding in the job he failed in is becoming ever more shrill. It’s almost a certainty that he’ll greet anything other than the Irish side playing a risky game in Poland as some sort of national treachery.

    I finally gave up on that blasted UEFA ticket portal farce so it will be all bars and parties from here on in.

    C’mon you boys in Green!!

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    wishing ROI and England both the best. however, both are horrific sides. They’ll both set up in a similar fashion with an emphasis on defence but I’d be surprised if either side win a game.

    Chris, I know you love your sport – any chance of a piece on the GAA dishing out IRA medals to kiddies?

  • Mark

    Solid performance in Budapest just now …..14 unbeaten games with 11 clean sheets . Great to see people sticking to the topic of the thread ……

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    “Solid performance in Budapest just now ”

    What match were you watching Mark? The match I saw had 5 point blank shots on our goal that weren’t taken and a couple of clearances off the line. And we didn’t offer very much going forward either.

    Anyone here going to the games? I’m off to the Spain Ireland game after convincing my Spanish mate to order 4 tickets from his federation. Means we’re in the spanish end.

    Anyone know if that’s asking for trouble to wear an Ireland top in the Spainish fans area? We’re already going to outnumber them about 3 to 1. After that Panorama, I’m not keen to take too many chances at stadiums like this.

  • Dec. Yes anything short of a win from Croatia will make heavy weather for this Ireland side. Their track record in 3 world cups is all three times made it out of group stage Euro 88 doesn’t count as making it out of a group stage with only eight other sides in it isn’t the same.

  • Mark

    Charlie SPRG . I thought it went ok . Reputation as a team that’s hard to score against is still there . I see Bilic is backtracking this morning on his previous comments re we’re the weakest team in the group etc ….

    I’m optimistic about all our games . We rarely concede and could easily end up with 5 points . All four teams are capable of beating eachother. Going into a major tournament like this on such a good run helps confidence and keeps the momentum going .

    I don’t think you’ll have any trouble from the spainish fans . They love their football but that’s about it . Talking to a few Spainish fans over Easter , they still remember Duff tormenting their defence and winning a penalty in Saipan .

  • keano10

    The scale of the Irish support will be phenomonal with the FAI confirming that over 20,000 Irish fans will be in Poland to follow the lads. Bearing in mind that England have only sold 3,000 tickets for their group matches, that is some acheivement.

  • There’s certainly a buzz of anticipation in Derry and around with two of it’s citizens likely to be appearing in at least one of the matches together.

  • derrydave

    Excitement is building in irish communities all over the world – I’ll be cheering on the boys in one of the packed Irish pubs over here in Singapore (12am and 2am kick-off’s will be no barrier with the irish pubs stayin open to 5am for every euro 2012 match-day !!). Come on youuuuu boyss in green !!!! Bring it on !!

  • grandimarkey

    I’m absolutely buzzing!

    Pub on Sunday for the Croatia game, flying to Berlin on Tuesday then I’m getting the rocky train to Gdansk followed by Poznan.

    The Croatia game is our final though. Win that and we’re favourites to qualify. Could really change the mood of my whole trip!

  • Greenflag

    We can ‘hope’ And so can England . Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland have no hope -not this time anyway .

    It’s a game folks thats all . Was’nt that a great win by the Irish Rugby under 21’s against South Africa in Stellenbosch _South Africa . And the odds were 9/1 on an Irish win against the Boks . Some of the faithful were ‘rewarded ‘ mightily for their investment 🙂

    Lets hope the soccer lads in Green can upset the odds too .

  • JR

    The banter starts.

  • lamhdearg2

    Belfast City Hall will show England and Ireland games on big screen The Big Screen at Belfast City Hall will show all England and Ireland games from Euro 2012.

    Football fans will be able to watch Euro 2012 matches on the big screen at Belfast City Hall.

    Games from both home nations, England and the Republic of Ireland, will be shown in the grounds of the historic building.


    ps media reports (that i have seen) do not mention/highlight an alcohol ban.

  • Neil


    yeah why not? Probably show all of the games saying as the big TV’s there and switched on anyway so maybe more a case of not switching it off when Ireland play. Think there’s pretty much a rolling drinking ban around the city centre anyway.

  • lamhdearg2

    the report (bbc) states that, “Games from both home nations, England and the Republic of Ireland, will be shown in the grounds of the historic building.

    All the games from the group stages will be shown and if either team should proceed all subsequent games will also be shown.

    So if England or the Republic,o,I win their group, and the other one of the teams finish second, an England v Republic,o,I, game will been shown live in Belfast city centre.

  • DC

    “Games from both home nations, England and the Republic of Ireland, will be shown in the grounds of the historic building.

    Pity the council didn’t decide to show the quality football as well.

  • DC
  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    Fairly predictable result last night. Thought Ireland did well to get back to 1-1 but the Croats played some lovely stuff. If Ireland sat any deeper, they’d have been in germany…. And how mcgeady is ahead of mcclean I’ll never know. The only glimmer of hope is that Spain looked below par but then Italy looked better than I expected.