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Dublin: 5°C Tuesday 2 March 2021

Ireland's devoted followers deserve more than propaganda about phoney progress

In spite of the current malaise, the Irish team had substantial support last night in Aarhus.

Paul Dollery reports from Denmark

CARRIAGE 81 ON today’s 11.14am train from Aarhus to Copenhagen had been quiet until a debate kicked off among a group of fragile Ireland supporters, whose thoughts during the early stages of the journey were muted by their lingering hangovers.

A member of the travelling party, who was seemingly inclined towards looking on the bright side of life, wondered if Ireland — despite what the statistics argued — had in fact managed to conjure a shot on target during last night’s 0-0 draw with Denmark.

Ireland fans during the game The Ireland fans at Ceres Park in Aarhus last night. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Hear me out,” he told his bemused pals. “Remember Robbie Brady’s free-kick? It hit the side-netting. The goal is the target, and the netting is part of the goal, so it has to go down as a shot on target if you ask me.”

Even though his point was ultimately made in jest, it would be difficult to begrudge any Ireland supporter in Denmark for going to such absurd lengths in search of reasons for optimism.

Ireland fans are often regarded as the best in the world when they make their presence felt at major tournaments, but occasions like last night’s are when that reputation is truly earned and justified.

In the region of 1,000 travelled to Denmark. Tragically, one of them won’t make it home. Despite being vastly outnumbered in the stands, they generated most of the noise, undeterred by the dire spectacle that was unfolding on the pitch in front of them.

“The support we had was unbelievable,” said Ireland captain Seamus Coleman. “You’d swear we won the game when we went over to them at the end of the game. When the fans and the team come together, we’re a strong bunch.”

The reasons why change is required when it comes to the senior national team are many and varied. Chief among them should be a duty to repay Ireland’s loyal followers for their unconditional backing.

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If Irish fans really are the best on the planet, it’s predominantly due to the fact that they go to places like Aarhus for a futile fixture a month before Christmas, and not because of a willingness to change flat tyres and sing toddlers to sleep.

After incurring considerable expense to endure such a disheartening display, it’s a kick in the teeth to then be subjected to propaganda from inside the camp about progress being made.

Seamus Coleman after the game Seamus Coleman and his team-mates show their appreciation to the supporters. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On a murky night in Aarhus, there was no silver lining. No amount of clean sheets will compensate for the continued absence of any discernible desire to pursue a victory.

If this is the direction Ireland are now heading in, accentuating the positives amid a failure to score a goal in over six hours, it’s certainly not what anyone in the away section at Ceres Park signed up for when they first committed to following the team abroad.

The financial implications of dwindling home attendances might have the potential to force the FAI’s hand when they assess the national team’s gradual decline in 2018.

However, in addition to the many fans who have understandably grown so weary as to vote with their feet, at the forefront of the association’s thoughts should be their responsibility to those who will continue to turn up no matter ugly things become. They deserve more than what they got this year.

For now, even a shot on target will do.

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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