David Cullinane relives the thoughts, sights and sounds from Ireland’s spirited come-back against Poland.
There was a sense from early yesterday upon arriving in Dublin that this was more than a normal game. This was huge, this was massive; it was essentially do or die trying.
As is ritual, a stroll into town to check out the atmosphere uncovered the surreal level of Polish support. Temple bar was as loud as it’s ever been and almost as packed too.
But there was also a sense the old Irish fan attitudes were back. On arriving to the stadium this was evident. Singing in the streets, flags hanging over advertisement hoardings and even the fact there was more than 20,000 in the ground befor kick-off.
The atmosphere had been building since the previous Monday. A week is a long time in football and consequently the in-stadium atmosphere was something else.
The roar which greeted even the entrance of the Irish goalkeepers to the field was immense, comparable to scoring in that friendly win over Oman. But apart from this, the what seemed like 15,000 Polish fans really got it going with flares, streamers and incredibly loud chanting.
Both sets of fans really were up for this. After the disappointment of the Scotland defeat, There was almost a sense of optimism but it never went too far.
The game itself, right up until the mistake for the Poland goal was really tough to watch. No side going anywhere and most attacks simply resulted in throw-ins . The mutterings from the fans around the ground were that ‘Robbie Brady is useless’ and ‘Keano just can’t do it anymore’.
These comments are not uncommon in big games. Certain sections of Ireland ‘fans’ love abusing the players instead of encouraging. If but one change could be made to the mentality of the amazing Irish football support it would be to stop berating players.
With such a tense game, we as fans now played the waiting game and after the introduction of Shane Long we could feel there was something in this for us.
The great effort in the second half resulted in a 90th minute goal, as Shane Long deflected the ball into the polish net to earn a draw. This was special, the Aviva reacted like this writer had never seen before. There was a moment where this writer felt the stand shake, which was amazing to experience.
You could tell this meant so much to Ireland as a nation of football fans.
As we streamed out of the stadium there was, for once, a ‘no getting ahead of ourselves attitude’. There was a joyous atmosphere but as the masses walked back to town there was a quietness to the whole thing.
The Scotand game in June has basically become the most important game in this country’s footballing history since the disappointment of losing at home to Sweden last year.
But this writer feels confident that a good result against England in a friendly game on June 7th could be an important stepping stone to defeating the Scots.
David Cullinane, Pundit Arena