A View from Afar

GypsyDownUnder reports from Sydney

Despite being on the other side of the world, the build-up is the same. You can read all the usual stuff in the papers and on soccernet. Thanks to Setanta the Ireland v Israel game is on live in two venues in central Sydney. However it’s hard to get excited about a 4.30AM kick-off – even for the hardy drinker, that’s a long Saturday night. I choose the alternative [some might argue, old bastard] option. Early to bed, quick sleep, and get up at 3.30. Drive into town. If only the traffic on the Harbour Bridge was like this all the time. The Gaelic Club is in the less salubrious part of town, near Central Station. Strangely there are a lot of Lebanese restaurants about. An omen, I ponder, as I park the car outside Impressions – an inviting brothel.

The queue at The Gaelic Club was crazy for the France game, but tonight I’m earlier and it’s not too bad. The bouncers are these big Maori guys (they’re so big they’re the ones that are normally the bouncers at the club the Maori bouncers go to). But they smile as they relieve me of $25. Twenty Five dollars to watch a game on television!

Usual scenario inside, I think at first. About 80% of the crowd are completely off their boxes, well they have been on the beers all night. And the rest, like me, are older and have just got up. But there’s a strange atmosphere behind me to the left. The usual pre-match sounds are blasting – Teenage Kicks, Alternative Ulster, Dearg Doom and Jimmy, Jimmy. But then all I can hear is Hail Hail Israel. There’s a large group of drunk Israelis too. Could make for a strange atmosphere.

Game kicks off. You know the score. We’re stroking the ball about at 2-0. They really do look rubbish. But do we ever put teams away? Darren, beside me, is happy and is regretting not taking up the $1.50 win odds. And all I can think of, is bloody Liverpool. THAT game has redefined football. And of course…

It’s another story, but there are number of very drunken racist gobshites behind me (in Ireland away tops, a reminder of why I left Dublin). They’re probably Rovers, but no matter, they’re making a very frustrating match even more frustrating to watch. And then the satellite signal on Setanta keeps breaking down.

Even at half time I didn’t feel too bad. I felt we’d still come out and win. In my heart I knew when Doherty came on that it was over. This isn’t Bignose Gary’s fault – it’s the fact that he replaced Fatboy, the only one likely to put the ball on his head, that’s the problem. I thought their keeper was shocking – especially the O’Brien incident. I wonder if anyone has ever viewed us as this “sportsmanlike?” Have we ever got a draw away, so undeservedly?

Ah well all to play for. We never like to make qualification easy. It seems we’re not great without a 34 year old bloke from Cork to marshal the midfield. Onwards and upwards and hope for Germany. I’m buoyed by the Holland game, last time. And the fact that surely, on the law of averages, we have to win a play-off at some stage.

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