Life’s a game of inches for Trap’s Army

EURO 2012 Qualifying Play-Off Second Leg, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 15/11/2011'Republic of Ireland vs Estonia'Ireland's Robbie Keane celebrates with Shay Given after the game'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer

EURO 2012 Qualifying Play-Off Second Leg, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 15/11/2011'Republic of Ireland vs Estonia'Ireland's Robbie Keane celebrates with Shay Given after the game'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Donall Farmer

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Al Pacino’s ‘life’s a game of inches’ speech towards the end of Oliver Stone’s ‘Any Given Sunday’ couldn’t be more apt today if it tried. The Republic of Ireland football team are hours, minutes and seconds away from the biggest battle of their professional lives

Al Pacino plays enigmatic American football coach Tony D’Amato in Stone’s flick and his rallying of the troops before their big play-off game really is something to behold. The movie was released in 1999 but Pacino’s speech is still every bit as inspirational.

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane during a press conference at A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday November 10, 2011. Republic of Ireland face Estonia in their Euro 2012 Qualifying Play Off match tomorrow. See PA story SOCCER Republic. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane during a press conference at A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn, Estonia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday November 10, 2011. Republic of Ireland face Estonia in their Euro 2012 Qualifying Play Off match tomorrow. See PA story SOCCER Republic. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Essentially, what Pacino says in his speech is that in both life and football we can not afford to give the opposition an inch. Complacency is our enemy and a dirty word.

As Pacino’s speech peaks he says, “we know that when we add up all of those inches, that’s going to make the f*****g difference between winning and losing, between living and dying.”

Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland will emerge like Irish warriors on to the pitch in the Polish city of Poznan tonight. They will know that if they are prepared to fight for every inch in tonight’s game then there’s a good chance they could beat Croatia.

By the time you are reading this column, I, along with thousands of other Republic of Ireland fans, hope to be preparing to do battle with the Croatians in Poznan.

Hopefully, by now I will have successfully made the 500km plus journey from Hamburg to a campsite just outside Poznan. As Pacino suggests, every fan, like every inch, counts. If an extra 1000 supporters gives the Ireland team just an extra one per cent on the pitch, it will have been worth it.

The last time Ireland competed at the final stages of major tournament was ten years ago. The last time they competed at the finals of the European Championships was in 1988. For Ireland fans, reaching Poland/Ukraine is a big deal.

I’ve listened to people criticise the style of play that manager Trapattoni has instilled into his team but again, as Pacino says, if it works and you’re gaining inches over your opposition then don’t tamper with it. I’d much rather play boring football and win than play attractive football and lose - it’s that simple.

Okay, it may not be the case that I’ve used the phrase ‘Giovanni Trapattoni has made it enjoyable to follow the Republic of Ireland’ countless times in my column.

But supporting Ireland doesn’t get much better than travelling to another country to watch them competing at either European Championships or World Cups.

Excira! Delira?

Every day this week, I’ve noticed how pubs, houses and cars have set out their stalls by erecting Irish tricolours. The nation will be awash in the green, the white and the gold - what’s not to be excited about?

The Boys In Green are not expected to make it out of Group C. In the mix along with Trapattoni’s men is current world and European champions Spain, Italy and Croatia.

It’s certainly a big ask but if every player is still willing to fight and die for that inch then Robbie Keane, Shay Given et al will have every chance of finding out what winning really feels like.

Do widzenia (Polish for goodbye) and hopefully see you in the quarter-finals in Ukraine (I’ve Pennyburn Credit Union on standby).