Wales and Ireland share points and songs
Inter-Celtic exchanges never less than friendly despite a red card and injury
Welsh supporters in Dublin for the World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The Celtic cousins shared shared points if not goals on a cold night in Dublin, but the fair result was marred for the home team by what looked like a very bad injury for Ireland captain Séamus Coleman.
Coleman was stretchered off midway through the second half after a reckless tackle by Wales’s Neil Taylor, who received a straight red card. After that, the ten-man Welsh were hanging on for the final whistle, as Ireland chased a winner. But neither side could argue when it finished 0-0.
With what had seemed like ominous timing earlier, the game coincided with Daffodil Day, an annual charity event that – incidentally – revolves around the Welsh national flower.
This was great news for the Irish Cancer Society, which must have made a small fortune from the visitors, charmed to see the blooms on sale everywhere, and for a good cause. But it was against the normal rules of international football to make the away team feel quite so much at home here.
On the other hand, the hosts did manage to organise a national bus strike for the day of the match, causing some concern for those arriving by ferry in Rosslare, in particular.
And then there was the FAI’s controversial 3,500 ticket allocation to Wales, which seemed vastly insufficient for the thousands of red shirts who gathered in and around Temple Bar during the afternoon, soaking up the beer and the March sunshine.
Some of them soaked up more beer than others, having started in Dublin’s early houses soon after breakfast. So it was a fairly inebriated Welsh support that descended the stadium by late evening.
But at least among the supporters, the Inter-Celtic exchanges were never less than friendly, as the joined forces in singing such classic chants as (to the tune of Bread of Heaven): “We hate England/We hate England/We hate England more than you.”
The pre-match ceremonies were dominated by more sombre events. They included a minute’s applause for a number of recently deceased football people including Derry City footballer Ryan McBride, who died suddenly earlier in the week. The Welsh then paid their own tribute to McBride, presenting one of their own jerseys with his number 5 to President Michael D Higgins.
After that, the fans weighed in with another round of applause in the game’s fifth minute. But probably the finest tribute was on the back of Ireland winger James McClean, a friend of McBride’s who had travelled back to Derry during the week to attend the wake.
He wore the number 5 shirt against Wales, instead of his more usual 11. And playing with at least as much heart as he always does, he wore it as man of the match.
There was bad news elsewhere in the group, meanwhile, where another of Ireland’s group rivals Serbia recovered from an early deficit to beat Georgia 3-1, while Austria completed an expected win over Moldova 2-0. Austria will be Ireland’s next opponents when they visit Dublin in June hoping to regain ground lost in the opening round defeat in Vienna.