From an October night in Glasgow to a send off against France in Tallaght, the build up of excitement for the Women’s World Cup was textbook.
A team that the nation took to its heart. A Captain that was stardust for brands. A Manager that was open and smiling. A history of 50 years represented brilliantly by those that were there. Sponsors fully on board, and mainstream media casting off the reluctance to fully embrace Women’s sport and every minute of every game showing live on RTÉ.
We knew it was a tough group and this was the best of the best but we could dream, and we did.
Thousands of young girls wanted to play, thousands of young boys were along for the party.
Older boys and girls were remembering Italia ‘90 and preparing for the party of the summer.
But reality has a habit of getting in the way sometimes and brave but point-less defeats to Australia and Canada meant we were done and dusted before we had really got going.
Sky and the FAI had created watch party packs that saw ribbons and face paint distributed to clubs. Bohemians brought a big screen to Dalymount Park and the Sport Ireland Campus had thousands on site to watch together.
The Canada game drew the biggest ever viewership for a Women’s sporting event. A win or a draw and we were ready for takeoff. Katie’s ‘Olympico’ goal could have been the trigger but again that reality of sport being about losing as well as winning.
The loss cost the team the chance to progress, and the nation the excuse to party like we wanted.
Italia ‘90 really took off once we got to the knockouts. The most vivid memories are of Packie’s save and David O’Learys winner in the penalty shoot out against Romania. Then it was Italy, in Rome, in the Quarter Final.
That was the big time. That was every house draped in green, white and gold, every shop front bedecked and every pub packed to the rafters.
We didn’t get that this time, but sure we can dream of the next one.
Even in England, with Lionesses rampant, the excitement is only sparking to full face paint level 5 following the 6-1 win over China this week.
Now they’ll play Nigeria in the round of 16. It could have been us.
Their TV numbers will double with each further round, even with games in the middle of the morning.
There’s talk of pubs all opening early to provide community watching.
If it had been us it would have been the same but with bells on. A memory explosion that would have lasted for generations, kicking back against our ever more fractured attention spans.
It coulda, woulda, shoulda been the very best of times.
Instead it will mean a steadier August, space to build the Oxygen for a run at the World Cup in another sport in September, where it will be boys rather than girls in green.
The reality of sport is that you can lose. The best of it though is that the next dream is just around the corner.
The team, including management will be welcomed home this evening outside the GPO on O’Connell Srtreet in a homecoming organised by Dublin City Council and the FAI.
After the bunting and the streamers are put away the FAI will review the tournament in all its aspects and at that point will make a decision about whether to offer Vera Pauw a new contract for the Nations League and Euro Qualifiers towards Switzerland 2025.