I can’t remember feeling so down in the dumps after watching Ireland win 3-0. I should have been smiling like a Cheshire Cat on happy pills because after all Derry man Darron Gibson had scored his first ever international goal but I’m not going to lie, I felt awful.
I think that it’s a case of no matter how much people try to dress them up, I just can’t get excited about international friendlies.
Ireland’s win over Wales on Tuesday evening had an added dimension to it as it was their first game of the newly-resurrected home internationals. Only this time around the marketeers have decided to call the competition the Carling Nations Cup and the Republic of Ireland have replaced England, who decided not to take part.
In a time when people are really feeling the pinch as a result of increased food and fuel costs, job uncertainty and rises in inflation, it’s logical that people will think twice before committing themselves to such luxuries as international friendlies.
Instead, fans like myself prefer to save for a few months and then spend our hard-earned money on fixtures that matter such as next month’s European Championships qualifier against Macedonia.
There would have been a time when I like so many others would have thought nothing about packing an overnight bag, jaunting off to Dublin to watch a friendly and have the craic. I’m sad to say that those days are well and truly gone and I’d far rather wait for the games that actually count for something.
It would be totally absurd if I was to say that international friendlies should be abolished because that’s not the point I am trying to make. If it wasn’t for international friendlies Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni would not be able to make an informed decision about up-and-coming players such as Ciarán Clark and Séamus Coleman.
International friendlies need to be completely refreshed and holding a competition such as the Carling Nations Cup over three months is just completely ridiculous. Ireland’s first game was on Tuesday evening (February 8) and their final two games are not until May 23 and 27 respectively.
Football on the television has become such a commodity and the idea of watching a friendly in Dublin against Wales, Scotland or even Northern Ireland is no longer attractive anymore. A little lateral thinking from the organisers would go a long way.
There is so much football on the television and online that fans are absolutely spoilt for choice. Perhaps a better idea for the Carling Nations Cup would have been to host it over one weekend during the summer. I for one would definitely considering going if this was the case. It would be like our own wee mini World Cup but instead of experiencing cultural exchanges with Karl from Berlin or Fernando from Barcelona we’d have to settle for Stewart from Glasgow and Tom from Cardiff.
Seriously though, my first trip to Lansdowne Road was for the old Heineken Cup summer tournament during the middle of the 1990s. The teams in the competition that year were Leeds United, Lazio, Liverpool and St. Patrick’s Athletic.
All of the games were played over a weekend and as a result the whole of Ballsbridge was awash from fans from England, Ireland and Italy - it was magic.
Critics of the Carling Nations Cup highlight England’s absence as the competitions major failing. I entirely agree. If the fixtures were to be more structured and offered more value for money then I have no doubt it would be successful.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of Tuesday night was the fact that after we watched Ireland thrash Wales we were treated to trip down memory lane when my friend revealed that he recorded Ireland v Germany World Cup game from 2002. It had been broadcast earlier that day on one of those world’s greatest games shows.
Even though we knew what was going to happen, it was much more entertaining and enjoyable to watch than the Wales game. When Steve Finnan punted the ball forward to Niall Quinn and Robbie Keane blasted past Oliver Khan I started to smile. We replayed Keane’s famous strike several times and in the back of my head I knew that even if I was to watch a million international friendlies nothing can compare with the real thing.