A COFFIN STOOD stiff and isolated in the bowels of the Nou Camp as 11 Irishmen shuffled past in quiet disbelief.
AFTER 18 YEARS wearing kits supplied by a range of different manufacturers, Cork City will once again sport the famous three stripes of adidas as they aim to defend their SSE Airtricity League title in 2018.
ASK ZINEDINE ZIDANE his memories of playing against Bohemian Football Club and the Real Madrid manager would probably smile at you shyly, shuffle his feet a bit and attempt some modest answer that the Irish defend so hard and play with such selfless heart and passion.
HERE’S ONE FOR YOU: who is the only player to take the field opposite Diego Maradona in Buenos Aires, play in the Nou Camp the day Gary Lineker scored a brace on his Barcelona debut and feature in sides from Belgium and Germany all the way to Canada and Japan?
The boy has wisdom beyond his years. “You learn more about yourself in the tough times than you do in the good times,” says James McClean. Less a boy now at 27-years-old, arms inked akimbo with tattoos on either side, he still maintains the boyish innocence with which he made his name at the Brandywell in Derry City as a thin but steely winger in Northern Ireland all those years ago – a country which has suffered more blood-stained tough times than most people would care to remember.
Ireland has always had a challenging relationship with football and a laborious course of acceptance of it. Once encompassing of all that was alien and English, those who supported it, played it and defended its right of existence as a beautiful game were treated as betrayers of the Republic and the independence it had fought and spilt blood for over hundreds of years.
It was blatantly uncomfortable, but we simply could not take our eyes off our television screens. This was the battle that we had waited for, a moment in time for Irish football: David vs. Goliath, rebel against the man, justice at last standing up to fight against incompetent authority.