DUBLIN: It’s the stuff “Field of Dreams” was made of. A journeyman professional athlete in the biggest game of his life beats all the odds to become a new superhero in the land. The man’s name is Brady, but not Tom Brady this time, rather Robbie Brady, an intense, ballsy club footballer with relegated Norwich City, in England, who became an Irish hero last night.
Brady scored the goal that defeated Italy and saw Ireland into the last 16 of the UEFA European Championship. That kind of win is a like a Super Bowl victory over in the US coming as it did against one of the game’s superpowers.
Robbie Brady’s Wikipedia page made for funny reading just after the match:
It is hard to describe the atmosphere in Dublin around 8pm last night. It looked like a neutron bomb had hit, you know one of those bombs that blows up people but somehow leaves buildings intact.
The Dublin streets were deserted, no buses seemed to be running, the few out and about appeared to be scurrying home. The ever present storm and clamor of a big city seemed entirely absent, except for faint cheering from every pub in Dublin.
To step into one of those pubs, as I did after 8pm, was like walking into an insane asylum or a bad Hollywood Irish movie set. Men with leprechaun beards, women with fake shamrock charms and gigantic green hats, and everywhere there were people screaming and shouting and gazing up at the television screens.
I almost expected "The Quiet Man" director John Ford to appear and shout “cut” given all the shamrocks and blarney, directly imported from America.
When you are a very small country like Ireland you take your victories where you can. International soccer and the Irish team is a huge aspect of life in this country. Some say when Ireland reached the quarter final of the World Cup 1990, in Italy, that the subsequent “boom times” were sparked by the soccer team's incredible, brave run.
Ireland can’t usually compete with the giants of the game, but this current team is the little engine that could.
In the last year they have beaten World Champions Germany and now Italy, a perennial giant. On Sunday they now meet France, another world power, and nobody is ruling out the Irish.
Against Italy, in a game they had to win to advance, the Irish side, far less talented on paper and memorably described as “good lads” by soccer pundits as a way of saying something positive about them, ran the Italians into the ground but could not seem to score.
That’s usually the Italian modus operandi. They defend and defend then in a split second they attack and, cobra like, strike for a goal as their opponents tire.
Enter boyish Robbie Brady who sent female hearts a flutter and not more than a few men wondering if they should visit the emergency room so excited did they become.
As it turned out they missed each other, but Brady did not miss the ball, heading it home for a magnificent winning score.
The Irish fans, tens of thousands of them in the stadium, went berserk. In the pub the beer was split and the bar glasses were in danger of cracking because of the noise level. Strangers kissed, men and women wept.
Like the pub people, the fans at the game were wrapped in green and had kept up an incredible wave of support as the team tried to advance. The French paper L'Equipe devoted a center page spread to the delightful antics of the fans on Wednesday and NPR in America even did a piece.The lads of summer - Irish soccer fans are the class act of Europe (VIDEOS)
Now the fans in the stadium were as one with the Irish team and the fans at home. “The Fighting Irish,” thanks to Brady, had advanced too the last 16 of the Championship after surviving a further six minutes where holy names were regularly being invoked alongside swearing as in “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Clear the f***ing ball would ya!” Finally, the whistle blew.
Dublin stirred slowly back to life with thousands, many unsteady, on the streets chanting and singing.
There is nothing like the Irish sense of fun and when married with achievement it is hard to beat. Bring on the French!
Allez Les Verts!