By Amy Eustace, writing from Dublin and ready to fly to Poland.
I have spent the past ten years in international football’s no-man’s land.
It’s been both lonely and frustrating. Ireland’s precarious position at Europe’s western edge, and even more precarious proximity to ol’ Blighty, has meant that we couldn’t possibly ignore the European championships, even when we, ourselves, had not been deigned fit to attend. As our unfortunate neighbours Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and indeed perhaps the rest of the world would regretfully agree, the English make a right old stink around international tournaments. For the Irish, watching the English self-combust in a frenzy of obsessive compulsive self-sabotaging media coverage is like watching an annoying older brother get a shiny toy car for Christmas and then ramming it repeatedly into the floor until it’s a crumpled heap. Yes, England, you’re THAT guy. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.
I’ve learned that I don’t much like neutrality. I am no Switzerland. I have an all-consuming need to get involved. For ten years I’ve wanted to hang the tricolour from my bedroom window. I’ve wanted to sing ‘We All Dream of a Team of Gary Breens’ in a pub packed with my countrymen in some far flung host city. I have watched the rugby-heads of my country see the glory of European dominance, when all I wanted was a decent run at the group stages. Was that really so much to ask?