Pride guys of both sides show how stir­ring it can be

Sunday Express - - Front Page -

DID you hear the one about the Scots­man who went into a bar?

He would have been with an English­man, an Ir­ish­man, and a Welsh­man – but they were all at the Eu­ros! Or so it goes.

That says it all re­ally in these tur­bu­lent times. And par­tic­u­larly in Paris yes­ter­day.

See­ing Wales and North­ern Ire­land fight­ing for a place in the quar­ter fi­nals – and the pride and pas­sion that sur­rounded their ef­forts – showed how great it can be to be Bri­tish, no mat­ter what some might sug­gest right now.

No pol­i­tics, no re­crim­i­na­tions, just no-holds-barred foot­ball, made in Bri­tain. More of the same – but hope­fully of a higher stan­dard – may well be on the cards when Eng­land take on Ice­land to­mor­row night.

If that Euro ref­er­en­dum was fright­en­ingly his­toric, this was also his­tory in the mak­ing. A lit­tle piece of Bri­tain in Europe and the first time two home na­tions had faced each other in a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment.

To see Gareth Bale singing his heart out when they played Land Of My Fa­thers was prob­a­bly as poignant as it gets at this par­tic­u­lar mo­ment in time. The Ir­ish lads’ ren­di­tion of God Save The Queen wasn’t far be­hind.

Let’s be hon­est, the foot­ball was never go­ing to match the emo­tions. Too much at stake for that, as an un­usu­ally ten­ta­tive Wales showed.

But the irony about the pro­ceed­ings was that, apart from Bale and Aaron Ram­sey for Wales and Jonny Evans for the Ir­ish, hardly any of these play­ers have per­formed se­ri­ously in Europe, let alone voted to come out of it.

Yet the re­solve and com­mit­ment from them made up for the tech­ni­cal de­fi­cien­cies and ner­vous­ness. Na­tional pride was para­mount, on and off the pitch.

The Ir­ish sur­prised us a bit, par­tic­u­larly in a first half that of­ten looked like two prize fight­ers shadow box­ing. The Ir­ish came into this one as the un­der­dogs,

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