|Giovanni Trapattoni and Robbie Keane meet the press in Estonia last week.|
This sounds like the scene setter for a love story, but it’s not.
Instead it is a story of hope and glory, a story at last of happiness for a nation betrayed by its leaders in its most prosperous times.
We first met on Sunday morning, early on Sunday morning as it happened. We were neighbors in the security queue at Tallinn Airport and it was impossible not to hear what my new friend Brian, I think that’s his name, was saying to his wife at home in Luxemburg.
He was hung over after three days and three nights in Estonia, the sort of thing that an infectious city like Tallinn and its wonderful Irish bar called Molly Malone’s does to you.
He was tired. We were all tired. He was living in dreamland.
“When I woke up this morning, someone told me Ireland had won 4-0 but they couldn’t be right,” he explained to his better half.
He was disorientated. “I have a ticket for the game in Dublin on Tuesday night and the flight home is booked but I don’t think I’ll go, the game is over now,” added John, maybe in an attempt to appease the suffering spouse.
Then he declared his love for her and brought his call to a halt. It was time to make my move.
“You can’t miss Tuesday,” I said.
“But the game is over, there’s no way they’ll ever score four goals past Shay Given,” replied my queue buddy.
“No,” said I. “They won’t. They won’t get near qualification because we have an Italian manager and I doubt any Italian manager has ever blown a four-goal lead in a playoff match. Sure didn’t Marco Tardelli laugh when someone asked Trap last night if he’d ever thrown away a four goal lead.”
Brian still wasn’t convinced.
“Yeah, but I’ve been away for three days now and she won’t be happy if I disappear again.”
It was time to play the trump card.
“Why are you living in Luxemburg?” I asked.
“I had to, no work at home,” said Brian.
Time to move in for the kill.
“Exactly,” says I. “You’re living away from home because our politicians blew the Celtic Tiger and killed our country. Well this is our chance to put our country back on the map.
“We’ve had nothing to shout about for years. We’ve had nothing to celebrate since that b******s Bertie sold us down the river. So get your arse onto that plane, get to the Aviva and join the party on Tuesday night.”
Game, set and match.
“You’re right, I’ll meet you for a pint at the Berkeley Court before the match,” said John. And yes, he did.
An hour before kick-off on Tuesday, an hour before Lansdowne Road became Coronation Street, I met my mate Brian from Luxemburg. We had our beer in a hotel with its own Celtic Tiger story to tell.
When the bubble was booming, soccer fans weren’t welcome in the Berkeley. They wanted the rugger buggers and had more bouncers than Copper Face Jacks whenever the soccer lot were in town.
Nowadays, like the song repeated over and over in Tallinn’s strange Depeche Mode bar, they just can’t get enough of us. They’ve even put an extra bar just inside the front door to keep us watered and a barbeque stall to keep us fed.
Brian and I had our pint in the Berkeley. Then we had our night together at the Aviva.
The boys were back in town and it felt good to be Irish, good to be alive. It’s been a long time coming but Ireland Inc is on the march again. Thank you Trap.