WEMBLEY DRAW

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

Wembley stadium in London is the venue for tonight’s soccer international between England and the Republic of Ireland. An interesting game for a number of reasons, mainly because it has been 18 years since these near neighbours have met. The last occasion was at the old Lansdowne Road stadium in Dublin in Fenruary 1995. With Ireland leading 1-0 the match had to be abandoned after 27 minutes as a section of the English fans in an upper stand began a riot, throwing seats, bars and other missiles down onto the Irish fans, Gardaí and stewards beneath them.

But as RTÉ sport recalled, in the years preceding those appalling scenes, the Boys in Green and the Three Lions had become familiar foes, playing out a series of intriguing competitive games between 1988 and 1991. I was in Germany for Euro 88 when in the golden era for Irish soccer for nine years under Jack Charlton, Ray Houghton’s early header decided the opening game for Ireland against the old enemy in Stuttgart. In the Euro 92 qualifiers the sides were again facing each other. Although England took the lead in both games, Tony Cascarino (Aston Villa) headed in a late equaliser in Dublin, while Niall Quinn levelled in Wembley, a match Ireland should have won.

Just like their rugby counterparts, this game means more for the Ireland players than it does for England, where most players get a regular taste of Champions League, World Cup and European Championship action. Kyle Walker, Tom Cleverly and Andy Carroll all dropped out, while Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Darren O’Dea and Aiden McGeady have all travelled considerable distances for the chance to step out at the famous stadium.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium

HALF TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1

Ireland got off to a good start and took the home side by surprise by going ahead after twelve minutes. A beautiful header from West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long inspired Trapattoni’s men. But their lead lasted for only ten minutes as Chelsea’s Frank Lampard scored the equaliser. Although both teams had their chances in the second half, there was no change in the score and at the end of the day a draw seemed the fairest result. The green army went away in happy mood singing “you’ll never beat the Irish!” Hopefully the game will have given Trapattoni the opportunity to consider his options for the next friendly at home to Georgia on Sunday then back once more on the World Cup 2014 qualifying trail with a home game against the Faroe Islands on Friday 7th June.

FULL TIME: ENGLAND 1 REPUBLIC of IRELAND 1England Football LogoFAIlogo

PRICE OF FOOTBALL

                 Olympic Stadium 2012

Economically, it (English football) is heading for a big fall“. I agree. I paid £19 to see Dagenham & Redbridge v AFC Wimbledon on Saturday. Worth the pleasure of watching the Dons come away with three points. If West Ham ever get to the Olympic Stadium, in my view it will be the ruination of the club, not to mention Leyton Orient. I was in a pub in Dagenham on Saturday that had a picture of Bobby Moore on the wall and a West Ham/England flag in front of one of the televisions. The landlord told me he thought the Hammers had done a deal and I think this is the news he was referring to: “Long Olympic Stadium wait almost over for West Ham after ‘positive’ talks, says  Mayor (of London)”, an article in the Daily Mail. However the news in the Guardian two days earlier had been less positive: “West Ham’s move to Olympic Stadium stalls again over approval process“. All this coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the death from cancer of former Hammers and England captain, Bobby Moore.

Bobby Moore Statue, Upton Park Bobby Moore Statue, Upton Park

This England

The BBC Sport Price of Football 2012 survey makes interesting, eyebrow-raising and depressing reading, and confirms what fans have long known, anecdotally, that it now costs an arm, a leg and an internal organ to attend a football match. I stopped seeing the team I’ve supported since childhood two seasons ago, due to the sheer cost in money and time going to their matches. As an exile from the club’s town I had to travel to see them, up to 200 miles round trip for a ‘home’ game and perhaps 50-100 miles for away games nearer to where I lived. So that’s many gallons of petrol and hours of travel time, but at least the match tickets weren’t too pricey. No longer – I would now have to pay a minimum of £25 to watch 90 minutes of mediocre Division 2 (Championship my arse) football, during which time I have…

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DALYMOUNT ROAR FROM SLIGO

Jodi Stand

I had not ventured to Dalymount Park in Dublin for many years. I used to watch Bohemians in 1967/78 and remember some great occasions when Ireland played internationals in front of a packed crowd. I had been once I think since the new Jodi stand was erected. On Friday night (15th October) I found myself queueing to get into the ground, a bit like the old days. I thought I would end up with Bohs supporters in the “shed” behind the goalmouth. In fact this is the territory of away fans, in this case Sligo Rovers. I joined hundreds of them singing and applauding their team in an FAI Ford Cup semi-final. The atmosphere was great and the Red and White Army did everything they could to boost the players as they attacked into the goal they stood behind in the first half. Sligo had a couple of chances but it was scoreless at half-time.

As the RTÉ Sport report described it (new window) http://tinyurl.com/27j2mg5 Rovers went very close to opening the scoring on 11 minutes when Romauld Boco shrugged off Powell to get on the end of Matthew Blinkhorn’s excellent cross. Boco chipped the advancing Murphy but sent his effort over the bar.  Boco got a shot on target on 14 minutes but Murphy dived to his right and saved well. In the second half Rovers enjoyed a superb spell of pressure with twenty minutes remaining, with excellent passing football and creativity. They were rewarded for their effort with the winning goal on 75 minutes when Gavin Peers got his head to Richie Ryan’s corner and sent the ball into the net. So the westerners secured their place in this year’s final at the Aviva stadium next month. Their opponents will not be known for another few days as Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic drew 2-2 in the other semi-final. The Sligo fans went away happy and on this display their team will probably be considered favourites in the final. I thought Friday night’s game was a great advertisement for Irish soccer. I also hope Dalymount will continue to witness many many more years of football. But it will require more money to be spent on the stadium to update the facilities around the ground.

Sligo Rovers fans celebrate a 1-0 victory over Bohs

SHAMROCK ROVERS SLIP AGAIN

Pre-match warm-up

I went back to the new Tallaght stadium a week ago (October 9th) expecting to see Shamrock Rovers moving to secure their first League of Ireland title since 1994. Sporting Fingal had other ideas and spoiled the fun for the Rovers fans who for most of the match were solidly behind the Hoops.

Teams line out

Rovers went ahead after 13 minutes, missed a 2nd half penalty and looked like holding the lead until the last 15. The visitors took control and a series of defensive errors saw Rovers concede two goals just before the final whistle. So Fingal went away with three points and Bohemians took the opportunity to topple Rovers from the top. Rovers had been hammered 5-1 away to Dundalk and suddenly their title hopes appear to be evaporating. No doubt manager Michael O’Neill will be taking them in for a good talking to before their final two league games. One thing I enjoyed about the game was to see the crowd pouring in to watch Irish soccer on a SATURDAY for a change, when no English Premiership matched were neing played.

Hoops prepare

There were more signs today of Rovers’ weariness when an own goal in the 90th minute meant that St Patrick’s Athletic managed a 2-2 draw in the FAI Ford Cup semi-final. The replay will be next Tuesday at Inchicore and the winners meet Sligo Rovers in the final. I watched them defeat Bohemians 1-0 last Friday at Dalymount Park and they played well.

Come on the Hoops

SHAMROCK ROVERS’ REVIVAL

I made my first visit to the new stadium at Tallaght recently to watch Shamrock Rovers. As a schoolboy I used to watch the Hoops at Glenmalure Park in Milltown, a ground with a great history. It adjoined our school rugby pitches. I can remember the great atmosphere there, patricularly during cup games against teams such as Waterford. Apart from an odd visit to Tolka Park during the long period when Rovers were homeless, I had not seen them play for many years. I arrived five minutes late and by that stage Rovers were a goal up against UCD, a side which only developed after my time at Belfield. There was a great atmosphere at the ground and the pitch and stadium looked well. Rovers went on to win 4-1. Whoever said that Monday night soccer wouldn’t work? It was a great advertisement for Airtricity soccer. I also went to the “Hunky Dory” stadium in Drogheda for the first time recently where the students were once again the visitors. The home side won by a solitary goal. The crowd was not big but the supporters (both sets) were enthusiastic and did their best to create some atmosphere. It’s the only pitch I know where one of the goals adjoins a garden wall and house extensions. Unlike the great space in Tallaght. It’s good to see Rovers again at the top of the league.

I intend to pay a return visit some time to see them in action. Come on the Hoops!