Why were the crowd still eating chips when the chips were down for Ireland?
People will hang on as long as they can to get a last pint in at the bar, to get a bit of food or a coffee, or whatever. They’re in the stadium alright, just not in the seats. They can watch the teams come out on one of the wall TVs all over the place.
Overall, everything possible is done to distract people from going to their seat, purely so they will spend more money. The stadium is a business after all and it needs a revenue stream.
Maybe I’m a bit naive and maybe I’m hoping for too much here. But I don’t really get the mentality of somebody who has spent a fortune on a ticket to go and see a game like this but isn’t there to relish the atmosphere 10 minutes before the game.
And I’m not talking about the prawn sandwich crowd here – I mean the ordinary Joe Soaps with normal stand tickets. I couldn’t understand why the stadium wasn’t jammed to the roof in time for the anthems.
In fairness, they were mostly in for the kick-off but as soon as the initial roar died down the stadium was very quiet. Again, I know the Sunday afternoon is a factor here. And of course the team didn’t exactly set the world alight from the beginning. The amount of handling errors was obviously costly because it meant the ball kept getting turned over but it also killed any chance of building up intensity or momentum in the crowd.
When I wrote before about the problems there had been in Thomond Park with some people just turning up to be entertained, I had plenty of fellas pulling me aside and saying the players had to take some responsibility here. Their point was you can’t expect supporters just to blindly roar their team on if what they’re seeing out on the pitch isn’t up to scratch. I see what they mean but I don’t think it totally stands up – in fact, that sort of thinking releases the supporters from any responsibility.
You might argue that just buying the ticket is your only responsibility as a fan but I don’t believe that and what’s more, the Ireland supporters at the game on Sunday didn’t believe that.
The reason you know they didn’t is the noise they made every time the England supporters started singing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. It was met with boos and whistles each time and then a bit of a roar from the Ireland fans before it all settled down again.
To me, it seemed like the Ireland supporters knew they were supposed to be getting involved and they were annoyed at the England fans who were showing them up. You shouldn’t have to wait for the opposition’s fans to get going before you react.
The worst thing I saw on Sunday, though, came at the start of the second half. I was working for RTÉ Radio and we were on air all the way through half-time. So once we handed back to the commentary team, I took the chance to head off to the toilet.
When I came out to go back to my seat the game was back on and running but I was blown away by what I saw. There were hundreds of people just milling around, standing there having a drink and watching the game on the screens. They weren’t queuing for a pint or for food, they were just standing there looking up at the TV.