Remembering Hearts and Heads

Ireland on the eve of Euro 2012 looks forward and back.
Share |
Portrait of the grandfather/absentee landlord as a young-ish man

Image via magliarossonera.it

Yesterday, Giovanni Trapattoni named the Republic of Ireland's squad for the European Championships, and this shit suddenly started to take on the hue of something approximating real. This is the fifth time our boys from the land of saints, scholars, and committed if technically limited footballers have qualified for a major tournament, and only the second time they've made the Euros. The first was under the management of Jack Charlton in 1988, when (as I'm not the first to note) they beat England when they should have lost, drew with the Soviet Union when they should have won, and lost to Holland when they should have drawn. The result was a narrow exit in the group phase, a justified heroes' welcome, and a mighty and prolonged dose of football fever. Whenever we qualified for a tournament thereafter, we drove ourselves gleefully delirious in the months beforehand, thus creating a precedent for all subsequent occasions.

This time, however, the build-up has lacked something. Maybe we're too distracted by the economy. Because of it, we are currently in a constant state of tetchiness (the Greeks apparently having stolen our anger). In a few weeks' time, we get to vote on whether to sign up to the European Fiscal Compact (the referendum question: "Alright, me little beauties: which direction do you want to get shafted from this time?"). It's not exactly thrilling stuff. But let's confine ourselves to sporting reasons here.

One such reason is that the team's qualification campaign was a strange one. The group stage was devoid of a single defining victory, a euphoric moment whose memory would forever evoke the glory of qualification. It's not that there were any sub-standard performances. In fact, the campaign comprised nothing but standard performances: they were unceasingly competent, relentlessly adequate. The normal rhythm of an Irish campaign—the ebb and flow, the despair and ecstasy—was absent. Some sub-standard performances might have broken the monotony. But slow and steady wins the participants' ribbon. Because of the poverty of Ireland's group, it also won us a playoff against Estonia. A 4-0 first-leg win was the first sign since the World Cup playoff against France in 2009 that this team was capable of elevating themselves above their basic standard. But it was only Estonia. It's not quite the same as beating Holland or Spain, or even drawing in Belfast.

This mediocrity sometimes seems like precisely the effect Trapattoni is aiming for. There's a certain streamlined grace to it, if you bang your head hard enough. The main aim of Trapattoni's Ireland is to be as a wall against which the opposition will bang their heads until they start to question just how much they want to break through. Containment is the key, and it rarely makes for attractive football. In the high days of the Charlton era, the team rarely played attractively either. But for them, the key was pressure, and such a nakedly combative style at least had a certain vigour to it. Trapattoni's style will reach its zenith when he can slow the other team down to a near-standstill, like molecules approaching absolute zero. The problem with that plan at the European Championships is that Ireland play Croatia, Italy and Spain, and they might be a wee bit too kinetic for our liking.

Trapattoni himself possesses a grandfatherly charm. But at the same time, there's something of the absentee landlord about him. A nation's plaintive pleas for its sentimental favourites—James McCarthy, James McClean, even Andy Reid, once upon a time—go either unheeded by Trap or ignored for for just long enough that we know he's not going to swayed by our wailing. And whether deliberately or not, his imperfect English acts as a shield against close scrutiny. Journalists come away from media conferences sure that he must have said something, if only they could figure out what it was.

But perhaps there's a bigger reason yet for the lead-up having been somewhat muted. It's hard to overstate (though some have tried) how big a deal the exploits of the Charlton team were in Ireland. The nation had never been brought together and taken on such a trip before. It was a profound and welcome shock, and immediately became a part of our national myth. When England won the 1966 World Cup, it took a generation for it to become fully nostalgiafied. When we did pretty well at the 1990 World Cup, we nostalgiafied it instantly. The way we watched the games of that era, the way we celebrated and felt, has become the template for how we've done so subsequently. But there's the problem. Twenty years ago, it was spontaneous. No one knew what the hell to do, but they knew they had permission to go crazy, so they did that. There was an innocence to it. Today, those who were there, man, are the grizzled veterans, and those who experienced the whole thing as giddy kiddywinks are now grown-ups who spend the hours and days before big games on YouTube watching Ronnie Whelan's shinner and Tony Cascarino's more-turf-than-ball penalty, and listening to "Put 'Em Under Pressure" while trying to pretend that it's just a very hot cup of coffee that's making them well up. (Not that I'm speaking from personal experience, you understand.) How we respond to the team's current success is viewed through how we responded in the old days. And they are the old days. Now there's a script to follow, and it's getting stale. Now, we consciously look to our footballers to lift us out of our national gloom. Back then, we didn't expect anything in particular. It just happened. It's all a little bit forced these days.

In one important way, the Charlton era is history. There is a whole generation of Irish people who have no first-hand memory of that time. Some hadn't been born yet. Some don't even remember the 2002 World Cup, let alone what went before it. Some of these people are adults, able to vote and have families and emigrate and everything. To them, the reminiscences of us old and not-so-old codgers are lovely and all, but they are of things that happened to other people.

But there's still something cool about the fact that the squad comprises so many players who were children of the Charlton era. At least there's been something to pass on to them. Charlton's teams were pioneers, doing what none of their predecessors had done. They inherited years of near misses and the occasional calamity. The current side have inherited the same, but with a large helping of success too. They have personally felt the pride that all this can beget, and how it can make an entire people radiate benignly for a few weeks. Now the responsibility is theirs, and they bear it gracefully. So as the memories themselves pass into unreality, the embodiment of those memories will be, with a bit of luck, creating new ones. We now know who those players will be, and it's all starting to become real again. There are 33 days until Ireland's first game. They can't pass quickly enough.


Share |

Comments

I have bookmarked your site, the articles are path superior to anything other comparative websites.. a debt of gratitude is in order for an awesome web journal! trust flow backlinks

I concede, I have not been on this site page in quite a while... then again it was another euphoria to see It is such a critical theme and disregarded by such a variety of, even experts. experts. I thank you to help making individuals more mindful of conceivable issues. haarverdichtung düsseldorf

Amazing article! I need individuals to know exactly how great this data is in your article. It"s fascinating, convincing substance. Your perspectives are much like my own particular concerning this subjec werbemittel werbeträger

I truly adored perusing your site. It was exceptionally all around composed and simple to undertand. Dissimilar to extra websites I have perused which are truly not tht great. I likewise discovered your posts exceptionally fascinating. Truth be told subsequent to understanding, I needed to go demonstrat to it to my companion and he ejoyed it too! innenausbau düsseldorf

A debt of gratitude is in order for imparting decent data to us. i like your post and all you impart to us is uptodate and entirely useful, i might want to bookmark the page so i can come here again to peruse you, as you have made an awesome showing. tattoo supplies

Wonderful web journal. I appreciated perusing your articles. This is really an extraordinary read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am anticipating perusing new articles. Keep doing awesome! buy blog comments

Much obliged, that was a truly cool read! buy YouTube views

That gives off an impression of being amazing anyway i am still not very beyond any doubt that I like it. At any rate will look much more into it and choose by and by! product launch formula

Amazing and extremely energizing site. Affection to watch. Continue Rocking. inbox blueprint

Buy backlinks Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! And You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up Dofollow Blog Comments

Awesome substance material and extraordinary format. Your site merits the majority of the positive input it"s been getting. interior decorator

We provide service at your place of residence or business if you are unable to travel to our location (for more details please go to paralegal services) We have reduced fees depending on client’s family net income, We charge our clients per job and do not ask for advanced money and usually give clients approximately cost of litigation and time of payments before starting the job. Paralegal services

I have perused this wonderful post. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing data about it. I truly like that. Much obliged so part for your meet. messebau frankfurt

This one is great. keep doing awesome!.. sell silver

Much thanks to you for setting aside an ideal opportunity to distribute this data extremely valuable! geschenkideen weihnachten

Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up Clash of Clans Hack Download

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing thisfenugreek plant benefits

Incredible posting this is from you. I am really and truly thrilled to read this marvelous post. You've really impressed me today. I hope you'll continue to do sogoing here

A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you knowgoing here

This is just the reason why I've always liked your work. You have amazing writing skills and you display them in every articlemore information

so happy to find good place to many here in the post, the writing is just great, thanks for the post. email newsletter

Amazing knowledge and I like to share this kind of information with my friends and hope they like it they why I do. stylish homes

Farah is a top Real Estate broker at home Life Bayview, with a particular focus on Richmond Hill in York region and Toronto. Farah is amongst the top 5% Agent in Canada and has earned numerous awards in the last 10 years for her quality services. richmond hill real estate

A debt of gratitude is in order for setting aside an ideal opportunity to talk about this, I feel unequivocally about it and affection adapting more on this subject. snap361

Truly an extraordinary expansion. I have perused this wonderful post. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing data about it. I truly like that. Much obliged so part for your meet. escort in lebanon

high tf backlinks Great article Lot's of information to Read... johntechseo Great Man Keep Posting and update to People..Thanks trust flow backlinks

In the event that you set out to make me think today; mission achieved! I truly like your written work style and how you express your thoughts full article

An entrancing examination is worth remark. I surmise that it is best to compose additional on this matter, it won't be a forbidden theme however for the most part individuals are insufficient to chat on such points. To the following. Here's to you stamped concrete patio ma

Todos Los Modelos Retro Jordan y Nuevos Modelos Originales de Importacion Consiguelos en Markstore Tienda Online Adquiere un cupon de 100 pesos de descuento en tu primera compragarage flooring new hampshire

In the event that you set out to make me think today; mission achieved! I truly like your written work style and how you express your thoughts read this

modern bedroom Great beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you amend your site, how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account aided me a appropriate deal. I

Really impressed! Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. It contains truly information. Your website is very useful. voyante par telephone

I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog. It is easy to see that you are passionate about your writing. If only I had your writing ability I look forward to more updates and will be returning. try this site

college papers
wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated.

high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work. its hard to find good ones. I have added to my favorites. kit tattoo

I would also motivate just about every person to save this web page for any favorite assistance to assist posted the appearance. my site

so am happy to see you found a spot for it. All your suggestions and ideas are very valid, and I will try to incorporate all of them....
read this

And whether deliberately or not, his imperfect English acts as a shield against close scrutiny. Journalists come away from media conferences sure that he must have said something, if only they could figure out what it was.
baixar minecraft p.e gratis |
psn code generator download

I just like the valuable info you provide for your articles.I’ll bookmark your weblog and take a look at once more right here regularly. I am reasonably certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff proper here sewer line repair

hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here. werbemittel duesseldorf

I just like the valuable info you provide for your articles.I’ll bookmark your weblog and take a look at once more right here regularly. I am reasonably certain I’ll learn a lot of new stuff proper here fba video

Whether somebody pursuit of his vital thing, hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here.
next page

Whether somebody pursuit of his vital thing, hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here.
as an example

Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you known Castle Clash Hack

I just found this blog and have high hopes for it to continue. Keep up the great work. its hard to find good ones. I have added to my favorites. Thank You.read this

It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I've read this post and if I could I desire to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions
as an example

Just wanted to tell you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. The information you provide is really very good
source

You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article.
example

All you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job
fly nets for patio doors

Pleasant to be going to your web journal once more, it has been months for me. Well this article i've been sat tight for so long
website here