Humiliated, hammered and caught in a Trap
WORLD CUP QUALIFIER REPUBLIC OF IRELAND 1, GERMANY 6: OH DEAR. After last night, is it any wonder we make a song and a dance of the good footballing times when they, sporadically, come along?
The Fields of Athenry didn’t even get an airing at the Aviva Stadium, that’s how unique an occasion it was, the crowd losing heart and voice as they witnessed the Republic of Ireland’s worst home competitive defeat in history.
Not much to sing about, then.
The only moment of light relief? The cacophonous cheer that greeted Andy Keogh’s last minute goal . . . which made it 1-6 – you’d think we’d just secured qualification for Brazil 2014.
The relief was brief, though, the final whistle greeted by around 50,000 shaking heads.
A full house, then, probably more a tribute to the quality of the visiting team, Germany ranked second in the world, than to any confidence in the home team’s chances of taking three World Cup qualifying points – or even one – from them.
It was the first home game since that testing trip to Poland in the summer, when our singing was somewhat more exuberant than our football, and a performance in Kazakhstan that hinted a new dawn wasn’t quite imminent.
They’re a loyal bunch, these supporters, but it’s unlikely they filed in to the stadium last night with too much hope in their hearts. And it’s unlikely they will file in again in such numbers after this dreadful fare.
Ten minutes before half-time and a sizeable percentage of them were filing back out of their seats again, severely in need of refreshment, possibly in the form of a neat treble brandy.
By then an aggrieved Marco Reus, booked for diving when it looked suspiciously like John O’Shea might have, well, prevented his progress towards goal in the penalty area by taking a firm hold of his shirt, responded by scoring just the twice in seven minutes.
He threw a glance at the referee Nicola Rizzoli, Giovanni Trapattoni must have wished his compatriot hadn’t made the German angry.
With half an hour still to go in game, an ever increasing number of empty green seats became visible all around the stadium, vacated as soon as Toni Kroos made it 5-0. It was a humiliation like few could remember. And that was before their sixth.
At that stage, they were a few boos, but there weren’t deafening, perhaps due to resignation and a recognition that the team doing the scoring were just a class apart. Ireland couldn’t live with them, they didn’t even come close.
It was opposition of a quality not dissimilar to that which made our Euro 2012 all a bit harrowing. Croatia, Spain, Italy, and now Germany.
What next? (The Faroe Islands – but no one’s chicken counting any more. In truth, the Faroes will probably now be tempted to rest a few of their key players for Tuesday’s game).
A slew of familiar faces were missing, among them Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, James McClean and Glenn Whelan, absent through injury or because they reckoned they’d served their time.
Or, in Darron Gibson’s case, concluding life’s just too short to be sitting on a bench. If he tuned in last night, he might not decide to rush back.
Youth wasn’t quite given its fling in Trapattoni’s starting line-up, though, apart from Séamus Coleman and James McCarthy being granted another chance to prove he can, possibly, trust them to curb their attacking instincts.
If the result wasn’t embarrassing enough, the announcement of Jonathan Walters as man of the match was like rubbing salt into a festering wound.
German coach Joachim Löw had said lots of nice things about the Irish team this week, and then he named a line-up that looked a little like a Fantasy Football dream team, one that included the likes of Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira and Thomas Mueller. There ended Low’s generosity to his hosts, then.
He insisted that Ireland had impressed him at Euro 2012 with their fighting spirit. It was a kind of a “you’ll never beat the Irish” tribute, and he didn’t even smile. And then his team mullered us.
It was horrible stuff, the despondency in the stands matching that of the Irish players on the pitch. You can only hope Coleman, McCarthy and the younger crew can erase the experience from their memory bank some time soon.
When Germany got their sixth they barely celebrated, it was all too easy.
Still Trapattoni bellowed instructions from the sideline, but when his face appeared on the stadium’s big screen he wore the look of a man as defeated as his team.
In Irish footballing folklore, it’ll go down as one of those “where were you when . . .” questions. The supporters drifting away will probably regret “being there”.
On to the Faroe Islands, then. No spring in the step, just a limp.