ONLY A GAME? - Before Kiev and Krakow there’s Tallinn to take care of

Carling Nations Cup, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 8/2/2011'Republic of Ireland vs Wales'Ireland's Damien Duff celebrates scoring the second goal'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***
Carling Nations Cup, Aviva Stadium, Dublin 8/2/2011'Republic of Ireland vs Wales'Ireland's Damien Duff celebrates scoring the second goal'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***
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As Richard Dunne used his belly button to force the ball across the line against Armenia on Tuesday night hundreds of people started to ask themselves; how will I convince the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband to let me go to Poland and Ukraine for two weeks next year?

Although the Republic of Ireland still have to see off Estonia before they can take a place at next summer’s European Championships it didn’t stop thousands of fans thinking of ways and means of getting there.

Had Ireland lost the game it would have meant that the thousands of fans thinking of going to next year’s finals might not have had to imagine telling their loved ones that they were heading off to watch football for two weeks.

But Ireland didn’t lose, they won and for the first time in almost ten years the Boys in Green are on the cusp of reaching their first set of competitive international finals.

For anyone thinking of rejecting an Ireland fan’s request of wanting to go to Poland and Ukraine think about it like this.

Imagine putting yourself forward for a very tough job interview. Hundreds have applied and there are only 16 posts on offer. Some of the people you’re up against are Oxford and Cambridge graduates. You have a modest education but you boast bags of passion and enthusiasm for the job at hand. With me so far?

You’ve spent hours preparing to impress the interview panel; things are going well. You manage to get past the first three or four rounds of the interviewing process and then at the last minute you surprise yourself with the news that you’re down to the last eight.

The Republic of Ireland are only two matches away from reaching the European Championships. If Ireland are successful it will be a dream come true for the fans but if the fans aren’t ‘allowed’ to go to Poland and Ukraine then it’s a bit like the person who has completed a successful interview process only to turn the job down when he or she is offered it.

To all the girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/husbands of Republic of Ireland fans; there’s not much point in your loved ones spending the last year or so travelling up and down to Dublin if at the end of it they are not allowed to feast upon the very thing they set out to capture.

The life and times of the typical Republic of Ireland supporter has been lined with nearly theres, disappointment, frustration, violation and perhaps most of all, hope. Whether the Boys in Green are up against the finest teams in Europe the fans always believe that a result akin to the amazing 1-0 win over Italy at the World Cup in USA in 1994 is just around the corner.

The team are so close to realising what would be an amazing accomplishment and if they do manage to overcome the challenge of Estonia then you can bet your bottom dollar that fans all over Ireland will be brushing up on their Polish and Ukrainian.

The last time the Republic of Ireland made it through to a set of finals was at the World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002.

I sat sipping on a few pints of Guinness in the hotel bar of Bewley’s in Ballsbridge before Tuesday’s game and thought wouldn’t it be amazing if I, along with my friends, could head off to cheer on Ireland at the European Championships next summer; I’ve already had ‘the conversation’ with my girlfriend.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself as Ireland still must face Estonia but out of the four teams Ireland could have been drawn against Estonia was the side that the fans wanted.

I know of one person who chanced his luck and booked cheap flights to Estonia before the draw was even made. Unfortunately with the fixtures taking place so close to Christmas many fans will be unable to make the away leg but if the team get a result in Tallinn then it will not be so bad as fans have the real possibility of heading off Poland and Ukraine to look forward to.

Robbie Keane is doubtful and Kevin Doyle is suspended but as one fellow supporter pointed out, Ireland will play the same way against every team they come up against. One thing’s for sure, the fans will not be too bothered about how the team performs just as long as they entertaining the notion of spending their summer holidays in places like Krakow and Kiev next year.