Last week saw the start of the ‘Celtic’ cup, a tournament between Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland – this year, the whole tournament will be held in Dublin and it’s anticipated that it will rotate around each of the competing nations over the next few years.
Before I go on to describe my trip, I guess it’s pertinent to consider some of the views currently abroad on this tournament.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) – i.e. the FA of the Republic of Ireland – have recently selected a number of players who have been born & raised in Northern Ireland. It is believed that they have actively approached these guys & persuaded them to consider selection for the FAI. Their record to date is 100% of players who have ‘switched’ being from Nationalist / Republican backgrounds. In effect, they’re only actively approaching players from one background, deliberately.
The consequence of this is clear for the Irish Football Association (IFA) – i.e. the FA of Northern Ireland. We have both a reduced population of players to select & increasingly they will be from one background. In effect, the actions of the FAI will create a sporting Apartheid on the island of Ireland.
As you can imagine, their actions have annoyed many within Northern Ireland… and when this tournament was initiated, many in Northern Ireland decided they would have no truck with it and not attend.
I didn’t take this view for two reasons. Firstly the IFA stand to gain from this tournament in a better way, relatively speaking than the FAI. As profits are split four ways, a £500,000 profit for the IFA is a huge result, but relatively, it’s peanuts for the FAI. Secondly, I think I’m actually addicted to watching NI. I just couldn’t resist.
So I booked my 30 Euro flights, my 9 Euro hostel and off I went to Dublin on Wednesday afternoon. I landed, found my digs and headed into the city centre to meet Steve, Jonny & his wife to hand out tickets and catch up. Steve & I then jumped a taxi to the Aviva stadium for the game.
The Aviva is a relatively new Stadium, with an approx 55,000 seated capacity, yet where we were, in the corner of the lower deck provided what must be the worst view at international football I’ve ever had. The canter on the lower deck is so shallow that someone of my height simply couldn’t see past the people in front… even when sitting down!! The design as well is a bit weird, with the stadium already being described as resembling a bed pan!! The problem with the ‘shallow end’ of the stadium is that the elements aren’t really prevented from entering the stadium.
The game itself, NI v Scotland was an interesting affair. NI had 10 withdrawals from the squad which meant that we were effectively putting out our 2nd team for the game… and that means it wasn’t going to be pretty. What it definitely wasn’t however was as bad as Albania v NI!! We created perhaps two clear chances in the first half and a great chance in the second half, but we lost 3-0. In truth the performance was woeful, but I’m looking at it positively. We had several youngsters get a chance to see up close & personal what it means to play international football. I don’t rate Scotland, but they looked good against us in Dublin and I’m hoping that our young kids saw a side of international football that they’ll learn from & up their game.
After the game we headed back to the city & I was off to bed for my 0350 alarm call… and the 0615 flight to London Gatwick before a full day Risk & Issue workshop, the joy of it all.