Coming from a substantially large family, it’s always times like these that make the best memories. Ireland had qualified for the European championship in France and that meant not only the Dickers, but the nation were ready to support The Boys in Green.
Growing up in a home that was football mad, tournaments specifically were always celebrated and fully embraced. Obviously having a brother that plays professional football influences our love for the sport. The earliest memories I have of Ireland playing in a big tournament was the World Cup 2002 (I was in the womb for Italia ’90 and only a young pup for USA ’94.) But some of those memories in 2002 we still talk about when we all get together, squashing into my dads van and driving to my aunties house at 6 in the morning to watch the Cameroon game.
As many of us have seen in those episodes of reeling in the years, it’s never easy to recreate the momentum and sheer happiness of our nation in 1990 and 1994. Every time I watch this clip it leaves me with goosebumps and an overwhelming since of pride.
This year was no different as we faced Sweden, Belgium and Italy. The Sweden game gave us hope. As I sat in the pub and watched my Granda at 86 cheer on the boys and jump for joy when we scored, I knew this was a tournament I would treasure for years to come. That’s what football is all about in my eyes, there have been so many significant moments when all my family have come together and we’ve celebrated such happy, unforgettable times. It’s these memories that capture our nation.
The Belgium game was up next and definitely the least memorable performance, but the memories certainly weren’t. My brother had a garden party that consisted of my entire extended family & friends, plenty of beer and a sing-song that lasted until the early hours of the morning.
Although defeated, we found ourselves still holding on to that glimmer of hope as we faced the Italians. This was the moment that the Irish nation got to relive a clip from reeling in the years. This was the game that saw a footballer cry as the ball hit the back of the net. This was the game that showed the emotion and rawness of how football can not only bring a family, but a nation together. I’ll never forget that goal Robbie Brady, or the euphoria and elation of the crowd when you ran over to your brother to celebrate. Maybe it’s coming from a sister who’s watched her brothers dream evolve on a pitch, but watching that moment on live TV with a whole nation in the background made me so proud to be Irish.
The first 2 minutes of the French game couldn’t have gone better, the atmosphere in the pub was electric when we smashed that penalty. For almost 60 minutes we sat on the edge of our seats wondering if this was going to be our year, but unfortunately it wasn’t for us. As I walked my nephews home, tears streaming down their faces in defeat, Gary turned to them and said – “You remember this defeat when you’re playing for Ireland, karma baby!”. Their two little faces looked up at us and smiled, that’s the goal.