Halloween comes early as Ireland put on horror show for home fans
HALLOWEEN CAME early at the Aviva Stadium last night when the ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties of the German national football team treated home fans to their scariest 90 minutes in living memory.
The 6-1 defeat was Ireland’s worst ever competitive home defeat. Only a last-minute goal by Andy Keogh averted total humiliation, although before that went in we were lucky to be on nil.
After four abject performances in Poland and Kazahkstan, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland made it a royal flush against the world’s No 2 team. But while it’s still too early to suggest that our World Cup 2014 hopes have gone down the toilet, there was nothing in this disaster to suggest we could qualify for Rio.
It began well at least. In what was surely a first for an Irish soccer manager, Trapattoni quoted the German philosopher Nietzsche in his programme notes, saying of his team’s Euro 2012 debacle: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The theme appeared to be taken up in by the stadium PA, which welcomed the teams on to the pitch to the strains of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
But this only seemed to be asking for trouble against the Germans. And sure enough, after taking a few minutes to acclimatise, the visitors soon established themselves as the übermensch: passing the ball with a crispness that matched the October evening and looking dangerous in every attack.
The first item on the agenda of every Irish optimist had been the alleged split in the German dressing room between rival factions from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. In the event, the only splits apparent during the game were in the Irish defence, breached repeatedly with now customary ease.
The home side seemed to get a lucky break after half an hour, when Marco Reus went down under a clumsy challenge by John O’Shea. Instead of a penalty, referee Nicola Rizzoli booked Reus for diving. But it was a short-lived reprieve. Even before the Germans could develop a conspiracy theory about the ref and the Irish manager both being Italian, the same Reus pounced on sloppy Irish defending for the opening goal. And not even the referee could help us when Reus then rifled home the second, to begin the rout in earnest.
It was a good night for Mayo’s Clew Bay Pipe Band, at least, who played the national anthems. They earned the call-up to national level with a cameo appearance piping Giovanni Trapattoni up the foothills of Croagh Patrick earlier in the year.
And St Patrick himself was in Lansdowne Road to greet the fans on the way into the match. Upon closer investigation, the man behind the costume turned out to be Liam Mooney from Dublin’s Mountjoy Square, who predicted a 2-1 home win. No such miracle transpired. Özil from a penalty and then Klose made it 4-0 even before the hour. After that, it was damage limitation, and that didn’t go well either. Ireland now travel to the Faroe Islands on Tuesday: a suitably rocky assignment on the already impassable-looking road to Rio.