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Real Irish soccer fans a treat

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There's a website you probably know about if you’re a fan of the boys in green and, if you are, it will come as no surprise to know that the website address is www.ybig.ie

You Boys In Green are a colorful lot whose only goal in life is to follow the Irish soccer team with pride, respect and dignity.

Along the way, they have a good time. A very good time for the thousand or so boys – and girls – in green in Skopje last Saturday night for Trap’s win over Macedonia.

In recent years, I have got to know more than one member of the YBIG group and some other Irish fans who don’t belong to that particular umbrella organization, but do care passionately about their team and their country.
Many familiar faces were in Macedonia over the weekend, others were new to me. All made proud to be Irish at a time when our country is on a slippery slope to oblivion.

There were no political leaders in the Philip the Second stadium on Saturday night. The election has come and gone, so there was no need for any of the politicians who brought this country of ours to its knee to try and play the green card at a major sports event.

There were no property developers flying in to Skopje in their private jets or helicopters for a sport that only attracts the corporate crowd when the word FINALS appears after an Ireland fixture.

There were bankers and accountants in Macedonia. I met one lovely couple who work for AIB -- in Bulgaria of all places -- but they certainly weren’t doling out money hand over fist at the height of the Celtic Tiger.

The boys and girls in green had one thing in common in Macedonia all last week. They love their country and they love their team.

The efforts they made to get there were incredible to say the least. I met one fan who spent 36 hours traveling from Australia to see the game.

I met a group from Derry and Belfast who spent the best part of a week traveling over sea and land to get to the Macedonian capital in time for kick-off.

I met fellows with inflatable lizards and crocodiles, and one man with an inflatable dinosaur that was almost as big as his beer belly.

Sure, the Irish fans had a drink. At a euro a pint it was impossible not to.

Yes, they sang their songs. Yes, they mixed with the locals. Yes, some of them got into a state bordering on the unconscious.

But not once did an Irishman or woman step out of line in Skopje last week. Not once did a policeman have anything other than a smile on his face.

The real fans were in Macedonia. About a thousand of them to be exact. And so was the real Ireland.
When it comes to representing my country, give me the Boys in Green, on and off the pitch in Skopje, all the time.

As their chant goes -- I Just Can’t Get Enough.

HERO OF THE WEEK

IF you get a chance to watch the video re-run of Robbie Keane’s first goal in Skopje on Saturday night, take it to watch Robbie’s reaction when he scored the goal that broke Bobby Charlton’s scoring record. He didn’t know how to celebrate and half fell over in the process. It was amusing, but his feat of 51 international goals is heroic. It’s time Robbie Keane got the credit he deserves.

IDIOT OF THE WEEK
LIAM Brady has it in his head that the media wants Giovanni Trapattoni out of a job. I know most of the football media and there is no evidence to back up the theory. What the Irish media wants -- like the supporters who pay the TV license money that pays Brady’s RTE fee -- is a successful Ireland team. Qualify for the Euro finals next summer and Trap will have a new contract. Fail and it will be results that drive him out of his job -- not the media.

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