Off the fence
IT has been one of the most talked amount moments in Irish sporting history but the real significance of Thierry Henry’s handball in Paris on November 17 only hit home last Friday after I left the office and caught the end of the draw on TV for next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Having been at the impressionable ages of 10 and 12 during the halcyon day of Jack Charlton’s reign as Irish football manager, I still have great memories of Euro ‘88, and even more so, of Italia ’90, when the country was gripped with soccer fever.
And as the balls were drawn for the different groups on Friday, one could only imagine what the atmosphere would have been like around the country as people gathered in public houses from Dingle to Donegal to see who Trappatoni’s team would be facing in South Africa.
As it turned out though, there was only a very passing interest in the draw by the Irish public at large, it simply isn’t the same when we won’t have the Boys in Green to cheer on.
We could only look on ruefully as the forunate French were drawn against the host nation South Africa, and two of the more beatable teams from south and central America, Uruguay and Mexico.
But for Henry’s illegal intervention (and success in the imminent penalty shoot-out), we would now be readying ourselves to take centre stage at the biggest sporting competition of them all, opening up against Uruguay in the beautiful city of Cape Town, before moving on to play Mexico in Polokwane and then taking on the host nation in South Africa in a do or die last group game in Manguang.
I think all Irish soccer fans would actually believe that we would have had every chance of winning Group A and that would have left us a second round game against the runner-up in Group B, which will be more than likely be Nigeria or Greece.
Win that game, and we are headed for the quarter finals for the first time in twenty years, and everything going according to the form book, we would probably be facing the English.
Now, can you imagine the hysteria that would have enveloped the country as Trappatoni’s men looked to single-handedly derail the over hyped English bandwagon.
It would probably have been the single biggest sporting occasion this country has ever experienced, but alas it’s all now just a dream! However, I for one would rather see the English get to the World Cup Final than the French.
What’s done is done, but could you really stomach the sight of Thierry Henry lining up to take part in the World Cup Final on June 26? Give me the Three Lions any day of the week!