Category: Archive

Back again for second leg

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It’s clear enough that had the Irish odds been better going into the Paris game that many more people would have taken a few hours off work.
Scores of fans had to go to the 2nd floor on Saturday because college football was showing down below. On Wednesday, the few dozen that showed took back the ground floor. Dublin-born Manhattan resident Paul McDonagh and son Andrew could sit in their usual spot in the front of the bar and under a large mirror, which they draped with the Irish flag.
A few tables away, two couples from Ireland settled down for a meal and to enjoy the occasion at the West 44th Street venue. “I can’t see us coming back,” said Derek O’Brien, who was visiting from Kerry with his wife Sarah. “But we can hope.”
He predicted a narrow French win, as did his friend Ciaran McCabe, a native of Drogheda.
At that point, a camera in Paris focused on the face of Giovanni Trapattoni. His tight smile gave nothing away.
All changed soon after the game started. And from the 20th minute on, the Irish began to dominate, and scored a magnificent goal – by Robbie Keane assisted primarily by Damien Duff on the left wing — in the 33rd.
At half time, Killian O’Dowd, who works for a medical device company in Ireland and was attending a conference in the city, said: “I’m a little bit surprised but delighted.”
“We deserve the lead. We had most of the possession in the half,” said colleague Aidan Mulloy.
Both men felt that a second goal would secure the tie for Ireland. They were disappointed, though, with the level of analysis from the commentator.
That same commentator had found his narrative in the second half: Ireland were increasingly in the “driving seat,” he said, while the French were “worried.”
He said: “The French don’t know what to do.” (Thierry Henry had yet to reveal his hand.)
At the end of regular play, Irish fans were in good spirits. “We’re very pleased with how we’ve played and with how it’s going,” said Malahide, Co. Dublin resident Paul Kerins, who was there with his wife Lena. The couple had come to New York on the QE2. “We’re having a wonderful time. Like most Irish people, win, lose or draw, we are going to celebrate,” he said.
Kerins was confident that that his team would win on penalties if it came to that. “I’m sure they’ve been training for that and have the five picked,” he said.
But Thierry’s assist obviated the necessity for a shoot-out. Ireland, who came second to world champions Italy in the qualifying group, went out to the team that lost the World Cup final in 2006.
“I’m not happy, because of this stupid hand,” said Giles, a Manhattan-based Parisian who had watched the game with a fellow countryman.
“We were just discussing if it was deliberate or not,” added Giles, who appropriately enough works in audiovisual industry. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s not a pretty win.”
An Irish fan further down the bar predicted: “This will be known from now on as ‘The hand of Henry.'”
A friend said that there will be calls to introduce video technology. “They brought it into rugby several years ago,” he said. “They need to bring it into soccer now.”
A traveling group from Elphin, Co. Roscommon — comprising of a Manchester United, an Arsenal and two Liverpool fans — collectively went on record with: “We played brilliantly and we were robbed.”
“We got done in by two fluky goals,” said one of them, Trevor, referring also to the deflected winner at Croke Park. “Now we have to come up with new travel plans for next year.”
Beyond the Irish Rogue, the French goal quickly became an international issue. The Irish and British media compared Henry to Diego Maradona, whose infamous “hand of God” goal eased Argentina’s path to the World Cup in 1986. The only difference was that Argentina deserved to beat England overall in that game 23 years ago, whereas few felt that France had been the better team in Paris.
Eighty-three percent of those who answered an online poll at Le Monde, France’s equivalent of the New York Times, thought Ireland deserved to win and to qualify for the World Cup.

More pictures will appear in next week’s Irish Echo.

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