Monday, October 17, 2005

It will never be the same again

(My boyfriend still hasn't recovered from Ireland's failure to qualify for the world cup finals, so as a bit of blog-o-therapy, I've decided to try to capture some of his angst.)

Like your first kiss, your first car and your first offence, it never gets any better the second time around. The strange emotional disorientation, the sweaty palms, the feeling of sheer abandon, are never to be repeated. Second time around just doesn't cut it. So too with our world cup experiences.

The hysteria that followed qualification for Italia 90 was something to behold. Coming as it did after years of social and economic depression, it was just the boost that we needed. A national love-in ensued that embraced everyone - the football fanatic and non-believer alike. Women became to see the game as the artform that it is. Grown men hugged each other unashamedly without fear of being branded gay (*). Children grew up with confidence and hope. Ireland had a swagger like never before. The post-coital moment lasted 10 years and sustained us over many less successful matches.

It was always going to be difficult for Jack Charlton's successor to top those feelings. It just could never be the first time again. So despite qualifying for the world cup and, in the process, playing positive attractive football, Mick McCarthy was never going to get much thanks. In reality, the Charlton years were full of heart in the mouth 0-0 victories and the occasional scrambled goal from our top scorer, Rick O'Shea. We never every beat anyone convincingly. Our records in competition finals was occasionally Played 3; Won 1 ; Drew 1; Lost 1 performances but more often Played 3 ; Drew 3 ; Scored 1. But we could boast "You'll never beat the Irish".

Under Mick McCarthy's stewardship, Ireland got within minutes of a quarter-final that would match the highlight of the Charlton era. (Of course, we never actually won a match and we'd a both Robbie & Damian's goals should have been claimed by the vetern Rick O'Shea). But if, as we deserved, we'd beaten Spain into a cocked hat. If we'd stormed into a semi-final playing total football. If Rick had claimed the golden boot. It wouldn't have matter. It just wouldn't have been like the first time.

As so, not content with slow steady progress as a footballing nation, we hounded a decent man and good football manager out of his job because he didn't make it like it was the first time. The Saipan soap opera doesn't really matter. Forget that our most gifted player threw his rattle out of the pram. Even if Roy had delivered the masterful world cup performance that his career deserved. Even if he'd scored a goal on a par with Maradonna's second against England. Even if Ian Harte had scored a Zico-esque hat-trick. It just wouldn't be like it was.

Now, we look to hound another good coach and decent man out of his job. Rubbish is being spouted about not beating any of the top 80 teams in a competitive match.... when did beating anyone ever come in to it? Even as we hound him out of office, it just doesn't feel the same as the first time we hounded a man from office. Dunphy hasn't got the vitrol. Bill O'Herlihy seems half-hearted in his questions. Even a Prime Time special can't hid the fact it's not the first time and so it's just not the same.

Suppose the FAI stood up for Irish football and told the media to find some new story to tabloidise, now that'd be a first. Imagine a vote of confidence that actually meant something. Can you just it. Instead of trotting out Kinnear, Robson, Dalglish, Toshack and Brady as possible contenders, why not try something new and give the man a chance? we just might gget that crazy feeling again. We'd have something worth talking about in the pub. Women might come to see the romance in football again. Men might even be moved to back-slap each other or possibly even hug. Children would face the future with confidence and hope. It would be just like the start of some strange NEW adventure. And it would be the first time again .....

(As I said, the boyfriend needs some blog-o-therapy. He hasn't shown so much naked emotion since the time at Julia's wedding when he was both naked and emotional.)


(*) : In those dark days, being gay was considered quite offensive and did not correlate with better clothes, better sex and better taste.


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