It seemed familiar, Denmark travelling to Dublin for a crunch match. With nightmares of their last visit still very fresh in the minds of Irish soccer fans, there would certainly be scepticism in amongst the optimism of the supporters. With many people arguing that Cristian Eriksen is in the worst form of his life, the man who dictated The Danes demolition of Ireland in 2017, could we be in with a shout?
As myself, Cian McGrath (Byline Editor) and Jonny Hanley (Webmaster) departed Kent Station on Monday, we had a good feeling about what lay ahead. Despite the criticism that the Irish set up had come under in the past few months, we had only suffered one defeat, at the hands of Switzerland, in the qualifying campaign. After 3 hours of discussion and debate, we reached Heuston where you could already see the green wave beginning to evolve. Fans from all over the country descended on Dublin and it was evident from the moment we stepped off the train. Ireland fans packed into the Luas like sardines heading towards the modern hub of Irish football.
After the obligatory pit stop in Slattery’s for pre match refreshments, we emerged into the green haze. The volume was cranked up as the crowds gathered for the march to the stadium. I have never experienced anything like the atmosphere an excitement surrounding the parade to Lansdowne. The fireworks and flares were in full flight, and the Fields of Athenrye was ringing out around Shelbourne Road. After ‘greeting’ the Danish team bus, we poured into the stadium to continue the encouragement in the stands.
The buzz in the South Stand was electric and the Boys in Green made their way onto the pitch to rapturous applause and chanting. As Amhrán Na Bhfiann reverberated around the ground, you could feel the passion and the expectation in the hearts of all the spectators. Ireland showed signs of promise after what could be described as a nervy start where the ball was being knocked around the back line under a Danish high press. Ireland really switched on the attacking flair when Martin Braithwaite skipped the offside trap to put the visitors into the lead in the 73rd minute. Sean Maguire was introduced in the 81st minute and the change was evident, an additional option on the right broadened Irelands attack, and on 85 minutes, Matt Doherty met Enda Steven’s cross on the edge of the six yard box to draw the sides level. It was the most unusual feeling when the goal went in because usually when Ireland score we’d be head over heels behind the goals, but this time the celebrations was subdued knowing that there was more work to be done.
Unfortunately that golden goal to send us to the Euro’s never materialised and we came away with a draw which wasn’t a bad result. Despite the result, and the fact that we have to beat Slovakia and possibly our neighbours from The North to make it to Euro 2020, it was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced at an Ireland game. Between the march to the stadium, and the volume of the supporters inside the ground it truly was a great evening. To top off what had already been an exciting evening, I met one of my footballing heroes Damien Delaney outside the Aviva. I will follow the Irish soccer team ‘til my last breath, and to see so many other fans with the same outlook as myself really gives me hope for the future. Although results might not always go our way, the passion and pride of the players is unrivalled, and the loyal fans will always have their back.