Irish eyes aren't smiling
I would say it was good while it lasted but really it just wasn't. The Republic of Ireland's Euro dreams came to an end last night when they were put to the sword by a classy Spanish side.
Friday, 15 June 2012
Realistically though, it was the damage done by Croatia in their first game that spelled the end for their chances of progressing further than the group stages.
Going into the competition there was a cautious air of optimism that if the Irish could beat Croatia and sneak a draw against Italy they could make the quarter finals. Unfortunately that air of optimism evaporated when the limitations of the Republic squad came to the fore.
The technical ability of Spain and Croatia was there for all to see and showed just how far behind this current Republic squad is in terms of keeping the ball and using it effectively.
For all the clichés of the Irish having a fighting spirit, being difficult to beat and the obvious commentator staple of the fans adding colour and craic, the fact is all of these notions only count for so much when you reach this level of football.
Ireland have managed to pull off some great results in the past such as Italy in 94 and that unforgettable Robbie Keane goal against Germany in the 2002 World Cup that earned them a place in the quarters that year.
It is easy to see why a lot of people, myself included, thought they could progress and cause an upset against the bigger teams given some of their past results.
The fact is however, that past glories don't count for much in the current climate of world football, you just need to look at England to see that.
I don't want to sound patronising but the Republic did well just to qualify after 10 years of summers spent on the outside looking in on the major tournaments.
Having been denied by THAT handball in Paris, everyone was looking forward to the possibility of a quarter final grudge match against France but as events in Paris and this tournament have shown, football is a cruel game and the Republic will have to wait for their chance at redemption.
With a number of key players likely having played their last game at a major competition it appears the Republic will struggle to qualify for another tournament any time soon.
Despite my tone it isn't all doom and gloom. The current Euro format will change to incorporate 24 teams rather than 16 so there is the possibility they could qualify for the next EuropeanChampionship in four years time.
As the luck of the Irish would have it, that tournament will be played in France, the perfect setting for the ultimate of Irish giant killings and sweet, sweet revenge.