By Stephen McKinley
DUBLIN — For anyone living on another planet, Ireland has gone World Cup crazy. The country has had two weeks of agony and ecstasy. First came the Roy Keane debacle, then the respectable draw against Cameroon, and another one against Germany. For the record, many Irish people refer to these showings as “wins.”
In order to be a true fan, however, it is not enough to take the afternoon off work, or to have an opinion why maverick soccer commentator Eamon Dunphy, fired on Sunday by RTE for being drunk on air, is a bollocks.
The true fan, it seems, is measured by their costume for each match. Dublin’s shopping streets are awash with green, white and gold paraphernalia: flags, bunting and leprechaun mascots. Even drugstores on Grafton Street are managing to fill their windows with Irish colors.
All this patriotism costs money. For example, a genuine Irish soccer shirt costs euro 60.00, although one can buy imitations for substantially less. But the money soon adds up.
At Carroll’s Irish Gift Store, a sea of green, white and gold, manager Gareth Kelly took time out from serving customers to display his merchandise.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
“We have the majority of it all in stock all year round,” he said. “For the World Cup, we just expanded the space.”
Carroll’s on O’Connell Street was doing a brisk trade on Monday afternoon. Kelly said that the store had had to order in “more green, white and orange hairspray and car flags.”
In order to get an official soccer shirt, “you have to go off to Sports Champion or Arnott’s,” he said. “Business here has been picking up big time since the week before the World Cup started.
Hairspray in one of each of the three colors will cost a loyal fan euro 2.99 a can. Face paint, in three colors, is three for euro 8.
“Our busiest day was the day before the first game,” Kelly said, as he straightened a display of inflatable rubber Viking hammers (small, euro 1.99, large, euro 5.99).
A pair of outsize Irish shoes, to go with one’s inflatable hammer, cost euro 8.99. Strap-on plastic beer bellies made to look like a leprechaun’s, cost euro 1.99, while a champion’s rosette costs euro 2.99. Scream-for-Ireland masks, fashioned after Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” and Kelly’s favorite piece of gear: euro 1.99. A green wig will set the customer back by euro 4.99.
Finally, Kelly pointed to his store’s ultimate piece of fan memorabilia: the 20-by-15-foot Irish flag, which would fill an entire living room, at euro 49.99.
“The full Irish kit for kids costs euro 20,” Kelly said. “To buy that in an official store would be a lot more money, so they can get it here for less.”
Competition for Carroll’s is scarce, apart from the stalls on Moore Street, which Kelly dismissed.
“We have the stalls, but not much else,” he said.
Kelly himself was drawn into World Cup fever as much as anyone else in Dublin. He said he was planning to watch the game on Tuesday on a giant 30-foot screen in a gymnasium that would have an open bar in Clontarf.
“I don’t think this game is going to be easy,” he said. “We’ve never scored two goals in a World Cup match before.”
What if Ireland were beaten?
“Then I’d probably support Spain, though we could be up against them in the next round,” he said. “Many of our staff here are Spanish, so we accommodate them and they accommodate us: When there’s an Irish game, they have covered for us, and when there’s a Spanish game, we cover for them.”
To fulfill one’s mission as an Irish team fan, one would have to spend euro 122.34 on gear. Add to that perhaps four or five beers at roughly euro 3.30 each, and it adds up to euro 133.24.
But if they go through to round two and maybe even beyond, that’s priceless.