Ranty Cause: I’m gonna rant and you’re gonna listen.
IRELAND kick off their European Championship qualification campaign at the relatively inconspicuous time of 4pm this Friday.
It’s a return to weekday matches and a throwback to a time when primary school children would pack into one classroom or a PE hall in the afternoon, crowded around a small TV, to witness the latest escapades of Jack’s Boys in Green.
With the country mired in recession, the kid who could get hold of a second family tv (possibly black and white) was a god in the play-ground.
Our economy is equally screwed now, but I doubt Friday’s clash with Armenia will command such attention.
In their wisdom, UEFA have declared that some games in the forthcoming campaign will take place on Fridays and Tuedays (Ireland take on Andorra at Lansdowne Road next Tuesday Sept 7).
This is a bow to the major club sides in Europe, affording them greater time to prepare for the next round of league matches when their players return from international duty.
If it proves a success, UEFA are likely to adpot the format for future competitions.
However, Platini and his colleagues would appear to have paid scant regard to the fans with this proposal.
A home double-header could see Irish supporters having to trek to Dublin on weekday evenings twice in a matter of days. Games taking place on Fridays and Tuesdays mean those from beyond the Pale are at a massive disadvantage.
A Friday away fixture is also bound to affect the mobilisation of Ireland’s green army.
Some fans set off for the Armenian capital Yerevan on Monday morning but day-trippers and weekend breaks are no longer as viable.
With the move to the AVIVA stadium, the FAI have made tickets for the Andorra game on sale to the general public.
This is despite a long waiting list for fans to get on the much sought after block-bookers scheme, to gain long-term access to tickets to all home games.
The state of the economy and next week’s opposition must be taken into account, but you cannot rule out that a Tuesday night fixture is playing a part in the FAI’s apparent inability to shift tickets.
Under Brian Kerr’s reign, home friendlies attracted in excess of 40,000 people as Irish sports fans sensed a return to the big time tournaments.
The subsequent shambles of Steve Staunton’s tenure continues to have consequences with the general public losing interest in an unsuccessful national side. The rise to prominence of rugby has no doubt re-enforced the view among the casual sports fan that the soccer side is perpetually stuck in the ‘transitional phase’.
In relative terms, Giovanni Trapattoni’s achievements in reviving Ireland’s competitivness must be seen as a success considering the mess he inherited from Stan Marino, (who presided over the country’s worst ever friendly and competitive results).
Trapattoni aims to build on a new confidence in the Irish set-up, forged from the ashes of Paris.
Expectatiions have been raised and the public now demand the adoption of the gung-ho style of play seen in the French capital, and fleetingly in susbsequent outings against Brazil, Paraguay, and Algeria.
Armenia, who beat Belgium in the last campaign, could prove a stubborn opening hurdle on the road to Poland and Ukraine but while the Irish fans may have less to spend following the Boys in Green, qualification is still the only currency that holds value.
Friday afternoon or not, if Trap has indeed made us a new outfit, we should expect to beat Armenia and Andorra any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
Redemption for Ireland begins this week. Carpe Diem.
First posted, August 2010