Sporting Advent Calendar #18: No winners as England come to the Aviva

The English football team hosted in Dublin friendly - first time since infamous abandoned encounter in 1995

Former Ireland manager Jack Charlton is introduced to the crowd before the game. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Former Ireland manager Jack Charlton is introduced to the crowd before the game. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

The lunchtime kick-off suggested that the Gardai would have had this game played at dawn if they’d had their way but they needn’t have worried; the crowd, like the players, largely sleepwalked their way through a match we were supposed to have been anticipating ever since England’s previous visit to Dublin had ended in chaos.

There were no winners in the end, not even the FAI who bumped up ticket prizes to such an extent that they managed not to sell the thing out, and those who stayed away must have felt relieved at having kept their money in their pockets. Both sides had bigger fish to fry the following weekend and did nothing to disguise the fact. There were a handful of scoring chances but for the most part it was pedestrian stuff played out by players who seemed blissfully unaware that they were supposed to be making a little bit of history here.

And yet it was in its way a triumph. Finally, it seemed, Ireland and England could play out a game that was a complete non-event which not even the players appeared to care much about. This, folks, was a measure of just how far the peoples of our two nations had come.

A portion of the home crowd booed the British national anthem while the visitors taunted their hosts about having been bought off by Sepp Blatter. The whole thing felt like such a damp squib that next time the FAI might be tempted to play it after closing time and run one of its celebrated free-bar expresses to the stadium.

Expect just a little more nervous energy if the two sides run into each other at the European championships.

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