The Irish Invasion Of France – 2016 Remembered
November 13th 2015, a depleted Republic of Ireland squad take to the pitch in Zenica as underdogs.
Against Dzeko, Pjanic & their Bosnian cohorts, it was the first leg of the Euro 2016 play-off and Bosnia were the higher seeds, the favourites. John O’Shea and Jon Walters were suspended, Shane Long was injured and Shay Given was under the knife. A summer of frivolity in France in 2016 looked a distance away.
Somewhere in the fog, Robbie Brady scored. A 1-1 draw was followed by a 2-0 win in Dublin and Michael O’Leary licked his lips as the country took to the internet in search of flights. The rest is for the annals of history…
June 8th – The Journey Begins
Suited, booted and amidst a cacophony of selfie clicks, the squad take to the air in Dublin, destination Versailles. The Trianon Palace Hotel and training facilities have been vetted in advance, Saipan a distant memory.
June 11th – The Flags
Fans follow the team to France ahead of the first game v Sweden. Passport…check. Tickets…check. Witty flag (Fr. Ted reference preferable)…check.
June 13th – Dancing Queens
Swedish and Irish fans congregate in Paris ahead of game number one for a sing-song. First up it’s Abba – “See that girl, watch that scene, diggin’ the Boys in Green.” Then a polite invite to the Swedes; “Go home to your sexy wives!”
Oh the game? Wes Houlahan puts Ireland ahead, but Ciaran Clarke adds a second into the wrong net and Jeff Hendrick hits the crossbar as BoyleSports are forced to refund all losing bets. We’ve had better starts.
June 14th – The Puncture
An elderly French couple suffer a puncture in Paris. Luckily for them, it was right in the middle of a bunch of budding Irish mechanics. A spanner is located, the tyre is replaced and several good behaviour points are firmly in the bag.
June 18th – Bordeaux, Belgium & The Baby
Back down to earth with a bang in Bordeaux. Belgium win 3-0, but more fan points were scored on the tram on the way home. Roudy chants were replaced by lullabies when a baby was spotted in the carriage. “Shut up or we’ll box the head off ya!”
June 22nd – The Kiss
The highlight of the tournament, on the pitch at least. Robbie Brady heads home with 5 minutes to go and sends Ireland through to the last 16. Even better he picks out his girlfriend and family in the crowd, celebrates with them and enters the running for the sporting picture of the year.
June 25th – The Letter
A Frenchman writes an open letter to Ireland fans on Facebook praising their behaviour in France. “Even drunk, you’re a gentleman. Even with your belly sticking out over your shirt, you have class. Even defeated, you are in good spirits.” Merci beaucoup.
June 26th – France 2-1 Ireland, The End
And defeated they were. It all started so well. Pogba fouls Long in the 2nd minute, Brady scores the penalty and the quarter-finals beckon. But Antoine Griezmann saw to that with a quick second half double. Just one last thing to do before the flight back to Dublin…clean up for the Boys in Green!
July 7th – The Medal
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo awards representatives of Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland fans for their exemplary behaviour and sportsmanship. “Thanks to the Irish fans, we have seen extraordinary things” she says.
More of the same in Russia 2018 lads!