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Saturday, June 09, 2012

McGuire the Ireland Supporter- The Origin Story

In sci fi, once a TV or comic series establishes itself, the powers that be overseeing its production often decide to go back to a time before the events of their work began to look at how things began for their protagonist. This is known as the origin story. As we are on the eve of Ireland 1st match at an international tournament for a decade, i'd like to share my origin story of how I came to be a supporter of the Republic of Ireland.

It all started in the summer of 2002, during the World Cup in Japan & South Korea. Yours truly is somewhat of a night owl & was looking forward to the tourney as it would give me something to do in the middle of the night, but approaching the tournament I found hard to get excited about it. This was still quite early in my evolution as a soccer fan & felt hard to get into the event as I did not have an emotional investment in any of the teams participating. Then one day I was made aware of the glorious reality that I posessed Irish ancestry! This came as quite a relief as not only because I long admired the Irish  but that I was only aware of the Scottish ancestry on my mother's side of the family which didn't at all appeal to me as I tend to find the Scotch dull & uninteresting. But enough about all of that, to the matter at hand I found my team to support.

One of the early rewards of being a supporter of the Republic was finally being able to support it's star & lynch pin, a certain Roy Maurice Keane, guilt-free. Despite being a proud Liverpool supporter, I always found myself drawn to Keane. I loved his relentless, hard nosed, take no prisoners style of play, finding it remarkably similar to many of the hockey players who I counted among my favourites. However, I didn't get the chance to cheer him on in Asia. The now notorious Keane incident, which  saw him explode at the FAI over preparations for the World Cup, famously describing the training base in Saipan as a "car park" , & at manager Mick McCarthy over his overall ability as a coach & competance in general.  This has since become known as the Keane Incident. While an investigation into the incident did largely vindicate the volatile midfielder & the claims he made, it put the team under a cloud & threatened to derail their World Cup campaign. Hardly an auspicious beginning.

So fast forward to the opening match against Cameroon, who were at the time the reigning champions of Africa. The side got off to a sluggish start, playing a less than buoyant 1st half & were down 1-0 at the break. The 2nd half though saw a rejuvanated team. Whatever McCarthy said in his team talk worked b/c they sprung to life & fought back earning an 1-1 draw against the Africans thanks to Matt Holland.

Game 2 pledged to be a much tougher affair facing powerhouse Germany. It looked as if it would be a long game with the Germans scoring early in the first half, but Ireland never gave up. They put in yet another stanard issue Irish performance, one of grit, guile & determination & held their own against their formidable opposition, but had nothing tangible to show for it.

Then in the 90th minute... Magic courtesy from the present day captain one Robbie Keane!!!

I don't remember much from the moment the ball went in the net, as I pretty much lost my mind. I do remember the chewing out I got from my landlord from making so much noise in the middle of the night, but  it couldn't be helped. It was total euphoria, getting caught up in this journey, it was  unlike anything I ever experienced had before. I felt as if Ireland were unstoppable, & the subsequent 3-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia did little to quell my optimism.

This was a Cinderella story, but just like the fairy tale, the clock struck twelve & the aforementioned journey Ireland was on reverted back to a pumpkin. Their quarterfinal opponent was Spain & the match played out in an almost identical fashion to their clash with the Germans. Spain dominated the first half with future LFC striker Fernando Morientes scoring early on & looked to have Ireland's number & the quite poorly taken penalty from Ian Harter further that belief. Then, once again, fate took hold & bestowed a penalty in second half injury time & Keano promptly converted from the spot sending the match to extra time.

In AET Ireland were the team in control, creating the best chances in the extra 30 minutes, but weren't abole to follow thru on them, which lead to a shootout, which proved the undoing of the Boys in Green. 3 misses in the shootout did in Ireland. Their World Cup at an end.

That did not end my support of Ireland however. Like most Irish supporters around the world, I saw the World Cup to be a tremendous success & a truly uplifting experience in general. A committed Ireland supporter was born & has remained so to this day. I stuck with them thru the recriminations of the Genesis Report, wasn't deterred by the limp & uninspired tenure of Brian Kerr & despite the best efforts of Steve Staunton & hiss farcical time at the helm of the side, I stuck with them. Today, I feel my loyalty has paid off. I have thoroughly enjoyed  the renaissence of the Republic under Trapattoni & all the highs & lows that have marked his period in charge (take a wild guess as to what the "lows" were)  and, on the cusp of their first match I cannot wait for kickoff! I am expecting great things from Ireland, confident in that they will overcome the odds & show up those so-called experts who have shunned them & do great things.

So there you have it everyone, how & why I came to be an Ireland supporter. All I can say now is Come on you Boys in Green!

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