Belfast Telegraph

Republic and England match clash fears prove unfounded

By Adam Cullen

It was a game that could have gone down in history for all the right or all the wrong reasons - instead it was a day to forget as Martin O'Neill's men ground out a dreary scoreless draw against England.

Not even the glorious Dublin sunshine could heat things up as the teams offered little more than a lukewarm performance.

The first meeting on Irish soil between the Republic and England since those repulsive scenes 20 years ago had both nations on their guard.

But the possibility of fireworks on or off the pitch failed to ignite.

The atmosphere at the Aviva Stadium was only lifted by the appearance of Jack Charlton. It was a rare moment of unbridled unity as both sets of supporters stood to salute the 80-year-old - a World Cup hero on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The scenes of mind-numbing violence witnessed on a cold February night all those years ago were yesterday replaced with scenes of mind-numbing boredom as the teams played out a goalless draw.

The only entertainment on offer, and competition for that matter, came from the good-humoured jibes between fans. The travelling English support had even some of the Irish contingent in stitches with their cries of "Sepp Blatter paid for your ground".

The response from the boys in green's fans came from the south stand when they chanted that FAI boss John Delaney was "a w*****".

Then it was back to choruses of 'God Save the Queen' versus 'The Fields of Athenry'.

A very small section of the 3,000 travelling fans did attempt sectarian or anti-IRA songs but they were drowned out.

Former England midfielder turned ITV pundit Paul Scholes labelled the friendly stalemate "a waste of an afternoon" - a sentiment echoed by many fans.

Eoin Naughten from Clontarf said the match and atmosphere were lacking in excitement.

"It was terrible," he said. "Thank God for the fans, we were great. And the English fans were fine, sure the English are practically Irish these days."

Robert Hickey from Meath was less than forthcoming in his praise, branding the day a "complete bore".

That description suited the 400 gardai on Dublin's streets just fine as the night passed off peacefully.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph