‘It’s no longer a dream, we’re really here’. Those were the inspiring words sang in the classic ad for Mars bars as Ireland prepared to take on the world at the Italia 90 World Cup. This Saturday the Boys in Green will learn their Euro 2016 fate as the crucial draw takes place at 6pm.
Nobody would dare criticise Ireland boss Martin O’Neill if he belted out the words to Edith Piaf’s wonderful ‘Je ne regrette rien’. For the 63-year-old Derryman has been on a qualifying rollercoaster that gripped an entire nation. It was Jon Walters who emerged from the flames like a house made of bricks that an angry wolf couldn’t blow down.
Victory over Netherlands in 2001 was the last time Ireland beat a top seeded team and now within the space of two weeks, world champions Germany and the team of technicians Bosnia, were left lying in the dust surrounded by a green mist. A nightmare Joachim Löw will struggle to forget.
O’Neill’s message to his players ahead of the Euro 2016 draw is simple! ‘Enjoy it’, said the two-time European Cup winner. However, a lot of Irish fans will watch it with cautious excitement. There’s a firm unyielding memory of Euro 2012 where Ireland were drawn in the group of death alongside Spain, Italy and Croatia. It proved to be a killer blow to Ireland’s chances. Spain and Italy reached the final while the Irish only managed to score one goal in Poland.
This time around, the draw could smile on the Irish. Although being placed in Pot 4, there will be a big chance to cause a stir in France. Pot 2 and 3 are not as terrifying as past tournaments. The best possible outcome could be Portugal, Austria, Slovakia and Ireland. The worst could be Spain, Italy, Sweden and us.
Nevertheless, there is one thing that we can be sure of. Irish fans will make Euro 2016 a very special tournament. The Green Army will come on trains, planes and automobiles. Euro 2016 will be remembered for what the Irish fans bring. There will be a dance in France, so lets just hope the team can take the positive energy, package it up, and release it on the football pitch. As Father Ted once said, ‘Europe, here we come’.