Prior to last night’s game the belief amongst Irish fans was at an all-time high.
A 0-0 draw in Copenhagen meant that everything was to play for on Tuesday night. It was our World Cup final, our opportunity to get to represent ourselves on the biggest stage in world football. The nation was full of hope.
People had arrived at pubs two hours before kick off in order to get the best seats possible.
“I want to have a front row seat to hopefully one of Irish sports greatest ever moments” remarked one fan.
Ireland haven’t been at a World Cup since 2002, when the tournament was held in South Korea. The closest we have come since is losing to France in a play off game when the hand of Thierry Henry crushed Irish dreams of appearing at the 2010 South African World Cup.
90 minutes before a ball was even kicked and all the bars in the Castletroy area were full, many supporters had to be turned away due to sheer number of people who had come out to support their country. Every fan as hopeful as the other that this was our year.
Only six minutes into the game and it looked like it might just be. Shane Duffy managed to rise above the Danish defence to nod the ball just past the stretching Kasper Schmeicel to send the country into hysteria.
The Aviva Stadium erupted, the best fans in the world in full voice as they got one step closer to the promised land. The Hurlers bar in Castletory also went into delirium, people showing little regard for the four euro they’d spent on their drinks as they through them up into the air.
You could almost feel the nation bursting with pride and hope as Ireland got off to their best start possible. A number of other chances followed as James McLean just put the ball past the post that would have put Ireland 2-0 up after 20 minutes.
This wasn’t the Ireland we were used to witnessing.
“We’re actually playing attractive football for once” said one of the bars many customers.
Ireland were full of determination and belief, every player giving everything they have for the cause.
25 minutes into the game and disaster strikes as Denmark get two goals within three minutes. A well worked corner by the Danes sees the unfortunate Christie put the ball in his own net. Three minutes later Denmark capitalise off a Stephan Ward mistake with Christian Erikson giving Darren Randolph no chance with a rocket from 25 yards out.
Ireland go into half time 2-1 down but far from out of the game. The half time substitutions saw the introduction of Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan as Ireland went in search of two more goals.
Ireland still believed, the whole country still had hope that we could turn this around. Denmark knew that Ireland would have to attack as they invited the Irish pressure, hoping to punish them on the counter attack.
It was a tactic that paid off as Denmark’s star player Erikson once again made Ireland pay for their mistakes with another two screamers in the 64th and 73rd minutes to complete his hat trick.
Just like that Irish dreams were shattered. The Aviva fell silent and the atmosphere within The Hurlers deflated, there would be no celebrations, no World Cup for Ireland.
A 90th minute penalty to Nicolas Bendtner added insult to injury as the travelling Danes celebrated their countries fifth time qualifying for the World Cup, the last time being 2010. The devastation on the faces of the players was clear to see, they had given their all and a 5-1 loss is particularly hard to take.
“Its tough to take, the whole country was buzzing for this game. It’s the most belief I’ve seen in the Irish team for years, the country was full of hope. I really thought that this was our year to do it,” said sports photographer Michael Brosnan.
However Martin O’Neills men should keep their heads held high. They performed to best of their ability and no one could doubt their commitment to the cause.
They were fairly beat by a much a better team on the day with one of the Premier League’s hottest talents living up to his reputation as a marksman.
Ireland will have to wait another four years to get the chance to qualify for the next World Cup in Qatar 2022, 20 years on since our last appearance at a World Cup.
There’s no doubt that when that time comes the Irish fans will be ready to roar on their team once again.