Ex­tra­or­di­nary eight days for Ir­ish foot­ball

Irish Examiner - Sport - - SOCCER -

Ir­ish foot­ball never fails to de­liver a con­coc­tion of emo­tions, but still car­ries the abil­ity to cap­ti­vate a na­tion. From the five ma­jor tour­na­ments since 1988, the win over Ger­many two years ago, man­age­rial searches and even odd­i­ties such as the 2007 de­ba­cle sur­round­ing the mor­tal­ity, or oth­er­wise, of Stephen Ire­land’s grannies, foot­ball can stop the clock.

Ar­guably, the last eight days have de­liv­ered a blitz of news verg­ing on the drama at­tached to Roy Keane’s walk­out in Saipan 16 years ago. Iron­i­cally, Mick Mc­carthy is in­volved in both. Here we chart the chronol­ogy of an ex­tra­or­di­nary eight days in Ir­ish foot­ball. Sun­day, Novem­ber 18:

To the back­drop of echoes in the sports hall at the Aarhus Sta­dium that dou­bled as a press con­fer­ence room, a tetchy Martin O’neill talks of the team and him­self putting a for­get­table year be­hind them. Un­be­known to him, else­where in the Dan­ish city, John De­laney is as­sem­bling his board to rat­ify the de­ci­sion to sack him, ir­re­spec­tive of the re­sult against the Danes. O’neill cuts off a re­porter’s three at­tempts to ask cap­tain Séa­mus Cole­man a rou­tine ques­tion about how to im­prove on the drab per­for­mance of three days ear­lier against North­ern Ire­land. He also ap­peared less than en­thused by the rugby’s team heroic win over the All-blacks 24 hours ear­lier. “They’re an Allireland team, aren’t they?” he said.

Mon­day, Novem­ber 19: Match­day. Hours be­fore kick-off, chants cen­tring on the re­moval of FAI chief ex­ec­u­tive John De­laney boom from the Tír na nóg, an Ir­ish pub where the last of the hardy Ir­ish souls, travel- ling for a dead rub­ber, con­gre­gate.

How­ever, it will be the dress­ing room, not the board­room, where there will be a new face. Ire­land toil to a 0-0 draw, the post spar­ing them an­other de­feat. No shots ef­forts on goal are recorded over the 90 min­utes by Ire­land.

Tues­day, Novem­ber 20: De­spite in­di­cat­ing dur­ing his post-match press brief­ing with news­pa­per jour­nal­ists that a chat would en­sue with De­laney, O’neill kept to the “busi­ness as usual”. By 11pm that night, he was on the look­out for new busi­ness, as De­laney and FAI Sec­re­tary Michael Cody told him the game was up. What had started five years ear­lier in the plush sur­rounds of the Grosvenor Ho­tel was ended in the same city of Lon­don. A com­pen­sa­tion pack­age for all the staff, re­plete with con­fi­den­tial­ity clauses, is thrashed out.

Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber, 21: Just past 10.30am, an FAI press re­lease con­firms the axe has fallen, declar­ing it on the ba­sis of mu­tual con­sent. O’neill’s his­tor­i­cal feats are lauded in the bul­letin; the rea­sons for his exit are ex­cluded.

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