They're calling them 'Box-Office. The unveiling of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as Ireland's new management has sparked a frenzy of interest in the home friendly with Latvia. Yet, if the duo weren't in place next week, if there was no appointment, Irish 'supporters' would stay away in their droves. Billy Keane of wonders if the Irish team would be better off without the event-junkies.

aviva stadium

They’re calling them ‘Box-Office. The unveiling of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as Ireland’s new management has sparked a frenzy of interest in the home friendly with Latvia. Yet, if the duo weren’t in place next week, if there was no appointment, Irish ‘supporters’ would stay away in their droves. Billy Keane of wonders if the Irish team would be better off without the event-junkies.

I never really liked Geography in school.  Who really gives a sh*t about ox-bow lakes and flood plains and such things.  My Geography teacher was a cardigan loving, socks and sandals wearing hippy with chalk dust billowing from his moustache whenever he spoke.  I never quite took to him.  I do remember a time when he stubbed his toe on the projector screen stand.  That was funny.  Serves him right for wearing sandals to work.  Amidst the throbbing pain and fumbling, the projector stand collapsed on him pinching the skin between his thumb and forefinger and sent him into an alternate reality with the agony.  I was on the floor laughing at this stage watching him change colour as he tried to keep his fury from erupting in a torrent of red hot expletives.  Hilarious.  He also did this annoying thing that teachers do when they say the first syllable of a word and encourage you to finish it. Vol-cano.  That really annoyed me.

crowdI refer to my old Geography past because I was recently struck by a time-faded image, in my minds eye, of ‘the water cycleʼ from lessons gone by while in the Aviva Stadium for the last game of the current qualifying campaign.  You know the one.  The sun heats up the surface of the sea, the water evaporates into the air and is carried by the wind, the water vapour cools and condenses and eventually falls back to earth as precipitation, it flows down the mountains in rivers and streams and makes its way back to the sea for the cycle to begin again.  Most people are quite familiar with this cycle from living in Ireland where we get our fair share of rainfall during the year.  Weʼre famous for it across the globe.

Science can explain this by examining the gulf stream, prevailing winds and cold fronts meeting warm fronts over Irelands mountains and valleys but they donʼt live here on a day to day basis so exactly how much weight you can give to these theories is up to each of us to decide.  I for one am not completely sold on this sciencey, objective, evidence based hocus pocus but thatʼs just me.

“I have another theory that may have slipped through the net in the world of scientific research. I propose that Irelandʼs level of rainfall is pushed into the higher numbers by the condensation from the mouths of half of Irelandʼs football supporters.”

Itʼs a water vapour by-product from the bitching and moaning, criticizing and condemning, berating and whinging shower of misery merchants who show up to these qualifying games.  Add to that the steam off the shite that I hear from the vocal idiots at these games and Iʼm truly dumbfounded as to how Ireland doesnʼt have a monsoon season around international game weeks.

It came to a head for me in the Upper South Stand at the start of the Ireland/Kazakhstan game.  The teams were lining up for the national anthems.  I was in my seat and not a sinner within ten rows of me.  Looking around with an uninterrupted view confirmed that the stadium was mostly empty seats.  Less than half full. I felt sorry for the team to have to come out and play a competitive game in front such a sparse crowd.  Every empty seat represented a gravy train bandwagonner that decided to stay home this time.  These people are in every walk of life.  I just didnʼt realize that there was such an amount of them in the Irish football crowd.

These people are not supporters.  They are only interested in following success around and trying to claim part ownership of it.  It doesnʼt cost them a thought to abandon a cause if things start to go tits up.  They most likely ʻwere always interested in rugbyʼ when Irelandʼs rugby team were doing well and ʻhad been following the boxing for yearsʼ when Bernard Dunne was fighting for a world title and Katie Taylor was winning Olympic gold.  Unfortunately itʼs these twats that make the most noise.  They can define what the general consensus is and alter the perceived mood of the football public. The level of criticism aimed at the Irish team and management by these twats during the last campaign was nothing short of criminal.  From the disgruntled numpties in the stands to the gentlemen’s club punditry on RTE, the efforts of both players and manager were torn to shreds in a storm of post match analysis and character assassination.

trap parisIn the wake of Ireland’s performance in the Euros and the subsequent heavy defeat to Germany, the chorus of requests for Trapʼs head was embarrassing and bordered on betrayal.  For a man who narrowly missed out on a World Cup place to a piece of blatant cheating in a playoff with France and successfully brought Ireland through the next qualifying campaign for the Euros to be marched on in this manner was shameful.

Trap was appointed to do a job.  He did it how he saw fit. He was successful in doing that job.  Not everyone agreed with the way he went about it, myself included, but I would not call for his sacking because he lost against the likes of Spain, Italy and Germany.

Expectations were inflated and distorted.  Maybe it’s because of the golden generation of football fans who grew up with Jack Charltonʼs success and Mick McCarthyʼs World Cup heroics in Japan and South Korea.  I am also of that generation so I understand what it’s like to experience an Ireland team competing on the world stage and holding their own against the best.  It’s easy to yearn for those days and lament these ones but with a bit objectivity, the gulf in quality between the squads at Jack and Mickʼs disposal and players that Trap had is glaringly obvious. I only wish I had realized how spoilt I was at the time of the 1990 and 94 world cups and beyond.

It doesn’t sit well with me that Trap was dismissed in the manner in which he was.  It gives the impression that his reign as Ireland manager was a failure when in reality it was roaring success.  I felt as if the noisy nay-sayers bullied Trap out of the job.  The animosity towards him was completely undeserved when in the cold light of day it was a miracle that Trap achieved a World Cup play-off place and Euro qualification with the worst Ireland team in living memory.  This is not to disrespect the players.  They give their all every time they pull on the jersey and I applaud them for it but the harsh reality is that they are just not good enough collectively or individually to compete at any sort of level.  Thatʼs just the way it is at the moment.

Going back to that night at the Aviva, I stood for the national anthem with a bit of a knot in my stomach because of the lack of attendance.  My Facebook friends will remember a bitter update accompanied by a picture of the empty stadium.  However, that feeling wore off as the match got underway and another feeling gradually took itʼs place.  As I looked around at the fans who had bothered to come to the game a few thoughts came to mind.  I was glad that it was only the actual supporters here.  I hadnʼt heard a whinging misery merchant since I arrived which was a nice change.

Maybe this is way forward.  Let the twats stay at home.  They have no idea what it means to support the team anyway.  They donʼt appreciate the effort and pride that these players represent when they go out on the pitch.  The people here are the people who I want to sit with.  The people here are the ones who stayed back after the Euro games to sing the team off the pitch regardless of the crushing defeats.  The people here are the ones who are consistently voted the best supporters in the world is spite of the whinging contingent that stays at home.  It occurred to me that I was happy to sit in a half empty stadium.

I propose that we reduce the capacity of the Aviva by half.  Then it will never be a question of being half empty or half full.  It will always be full.  Full of real supporters.

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