It is going to take a while to shower the clingy, sticky mucus that was the sporting weekend just past off. For fans of the Irish soccer team and fans of the Boston Celtics (and indeed fans of both like myself!) Monday morning is depressing to an extra factor of twenty after the brutal results Saturday and Sunday night. Don't even talk to me about the Red Sox.
The Celtics, injury ravaged to an unbelievable degree, teased us with an early ten point lead, only to tire and get worn down with the ridiculous LeBron precession to the free throw line, finally succumbing to the abhorrent Heat and their Nuremberg Rally like fans (Note to Miami: Big rallies where everyone dresses the exact same, and chants to pre-arranged material handed down from 'the authorities' has been done before, and is pretty creepy). Ireland? What can you say about Ireland? Well, I had this to say about them last week in my Irish Central column;
''There are some in Ireland suggesting this Irish team might unite the country much like the Jackie Charlton led teams and indeed the Mick McCarthy World Cup team did in years previous. Largely fueled by greedy companies trying to cash in on merchandising and such, Ireland is being led down a blind alley of false hope in the inevitably doomed belief it might win a match or two and qualify for the next round. A huge dose of realism is well overdue. Glenn Whelan in midfield? This might be the single worst quality team to qualify for a European Championship in the last decade. Having said all that, Ireland's undoubted grit and determination, and wonderful, colourful and positive fans (the single greatest traveling fans, bar none, in all sports) will bring something to the tournament, even if Ireland don’t score in any of the three matches.''
Now, in light of the unbelievably poor showing against Croatia, we don't want to get all Brian Griffin on you, however, it must be noted, we did tell you so!
However, the 'lost weekend' of sports wasn't without a couple of dignified, heart warming aspects to it. First to the incredible Irish soccer fans who have traveled to Eastern Europe to follow their team. It is important not to just nod your head and mumble 'yeah I know, they are great'. What we are seeing unfold in front of us is one of the greatest displays of support ever seen in soccer and maybe in sports as a whole.
Think about it for a second.
Despite a knee-buckling recession in their homeland, Irish fans have thrown caution to the wind and flocked en-masse to follow a team that includes such luminaries as Keith Andrews, Simon Cox and, yes, him, Glenn Whelan.
They not only deserve our adulation, they deserve a medal! UEFA release some incredible figures last week, as it turns out, Irish soccer fans bought up 35,000 tickets to the finals. By comparison, English soccer fans bought a miserly 15,000. That gives you some idea how passionately the Irish support their team.
The fans in green are being recognised around the world for their magnificent support. Take for example this comment from The Guardian;
''The remarkable Irish supporters had scarcely been cowed even by the disturbing start. Those fans made such an impression in noise and number as the match began that they might have been mistaken for followers of a host nation.''
Even better yet, the Irish fans are doing it all with a smile on their faces. First here...
...and then, a little inside, I know, but this is a cracker
Now to the Celtics fans, and their incredible display of support as Game 6 slowly phased itself out to a close. At first glance this below footage may not look like much, but then consider the context, Boston had just been beaten up by LeBron and the Heat, on their home court. Consider the likelihood that this was probably (and as it turned out, most likely) the last time these fans would see these players together as a unit.
Then consider the sheer volume and passion of the 'Let's go Celtics' chant that hovers in the air for a full four minutes as the game fades away slowly to zero seconds.
You can see LeBron and his cohorts chuckling away to each other as the game dies out, however we all know full well they were thinking 'I wonder is this how Miami fans would react?'
For me, this amazing display of passion from the Boston Celtics fans was a dignified and heart warming 'thank you' to the big three in particular. Everyone knows the team will probably be blown up this off-season, and Celtics fans have loved every second of cheering for Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and their team mates.
Despite being down and beaten on the night by Miami, the look on the faces of Allen, KG and Pierce is one of incredible dignity and thankfulness to have played in front of such a basketball-knowledgeable and passionate crowd. That thankfulness is repaid in full by the Bostonians in attendance on the night.
Terrible sporting weekend, however the memory of the incredible Celtics fans, and the colourful, passionate and gregarious Ireland fans will live on way longer than the score of any game.