On the 22nd of May 1988 I made my first appearance at an Irish international match. The venue, Lansdowne Road; the opposition, Poland. The result, a 3 -1 win for the Boys in Green. Since then I have gone to Dublin 4 on many occasions to support our national team. I’ve been to friendlies, qualifiers, even play-off matches. The results have varied over the years.
On Sunday I was again walking towards Lansdowne Road. The opposition again Poland. However, this was very different to my 1988 experience. In fact, this was an experience like no other I've had in either the “Old-Lansdowne” or the Aviva. The ratio of home to away fans was at best 65:35 and probably closer to 50:50.
The primary objective for the Ireland is to qualify for the European Championship Finals in France next year. This makes sense both from a football and financial perspective. Providing the best possible environment for the team, when playing at home, must include minimising away support. Our qualifier match against Scotland last November proves this point. The Scots limited Ireland's ticket allocation to the minimum 5%.
At times on Sunday night I had to question who was playing at home.
In 1965 Ireland played Spain in a World Cup play-off match in order to see which country would appear at the World Cup Finals in England the following year. Despite the game originally scheduled for London, an agreement was reached to move the game to Paris. One could only assume this made financial sense to Ireland, as the fan base in London would have been much larger than Paris. Ireland lost the game 1 – 0.
I hope the decision to fill the Aviva last week doesn’t come back to haunt us.