There will not be a full house tonight at the Aviva Stadium but with over 40,000 tickets sold, it won’t be far short.
Coming in the midst of two All Ireland Men’s Football Finals that will attract 164,000 between them, Camogie and Ladies Football Finals that will pull another 75,000 and a Rugby International drawing 51,000, that’s not a bad return from a nation that loves all of its sport but has only got so much to spend on watching the big occasions.
There was a sense of excitement about how the team played in the game against Georgia. Passing statistics in comparison to the previous management regime were hugely up and we were winning, a vital element in fan satisfaction.
That game was in the early days of the unfolding FAI crisis and the intervening months have seen much come out about the running of the association and its shortage of financial controls that have upset many wityin the game and most everyone outside of it from Government, through Sport Ireland and the media.
Fans can be funny though. There will be some intent on protest tonight. Those who have consistently and continuously been critical of John Delaney have had the main object of their anger removed and the sense that things are moving in a better direction may well be enough to satisfy them.
Many more who will go tonight go not for a protest but to see a Republic of Ireland team win first and play decent football second.
The fickle mood of fans was best exemplified by the final serious game of Martin O’Neill’s time in charge, the second leg of our play-off against Denmark. A good result away saw us within touching distance of getting to Russia back in 2017. The atmosphere in the ground half an hour before that game was as good as any experienced since the stadium was redeveloped. As good as the win over Germany.
When we scored first it reached fever pitch but what happened over the next hour was crushing.
It’s the hope that kills you, goes the old phrase. To be lifted up so high means the fall is steeper and more damaging.
But here we are again. Top of the group and with the prize of home games in the Finals of a Major Championship within reach. More players playing in the Premier League than has been the case for a number of years and nine points from ten through half way in the group. Add to that that we’ve already played Denmark away from home and that a win tonight could put us eight points clear of second place and things are OK.
It could go all wrong tonight, but it could go alright as well. Paddy Power has us at odds of 3.75 or 11/4 to win tonight. Switzerland are favourites at 11/10. That’s a fair refelection of our chance. We are the underdogs but that’s where we often like to be.
The work of sorting out the workings of the FAI and restoring faith off the field of play will continue regardless. There will be two new and major commercial backers in the house this evening, Boots and Nissan. They have given a vote of confidence that football is the right place for them. For most fans, the most important thing right now is to get a result from tonight.
The Women did it on Tuesday. Now it’s time for the Boys in Green to come to the fore.
Image Credits: Inpho.ie