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The Old Enemy, Friendly Mobs And Internet Fame – How The Green Army Came Of Age

By niallharbison

December 20, 2016 at 12:18am


One of Ireland's greatest sporting moments – or one of the most fondly remembered, at any rate – came when Ray Houghton put the ball in the back of the English net in Stuttgart in 1988.

I was behind the goal that day, and along with other Irish fans of that generation the only mementos I have are the grainy TV footage, listening to the wonderful Joxer Goes To Stuttgart, and some fading flashes from my own memory.

Fast-forward to today and a new generation of Irish support are not relying on the players on the field to do the business, but are making names for themselves around the world. 

There have already been hundreds of photos and videos of the Irish fans behaving well but this one sums it up for me...

"Clean up for the boys in green".

Sure what other country would you see doing anything like that is what everybody from The Sun to Channel 4 are saying in the UK.

So why is this happening? I think three main reasons...

The Irish fans are great

And they always have been. We are always well received, and just as we were in 1988 there's a positive air of expectation around us.

That's not something we've cooked up at home – it's a genuinely held perception. And that's a nice thing to play up to; to aspire to.

Social media fame

We aren't the only ones seeing these videos. The travelling fans are seeing them too and they are trying to outdo each other – oneupmanship, an attempt to be the next viral star, and the healthiest competition you could possibly imagine.

We love to outdo the English

Now, see, here's where it all gets a bit sticky.

It's probably not so much 'outdoing' as 'showing up', but after the antics in Marseille, you get the sense that the Irish fans wanted to go out of their way to show that they're the polar opposite. 

Of course, that's painting in pretty broad strokes – and I feel especially sorry for the (vast majority of) English fans who have been well behaved.

As Ken Early pointed out in this fantastic piece, they suffer from a history of negative perception and have been treated accordingly because of their history – like a teenager whose mother accuses him of inevitable misdeeds before he's even set foot out the door, what else are they going to do?

And I've seen Irish fans do things that the English fans are also doing – dancing on the roofs of cars, stripping naked and throwing beer in the air. So it's not all positive. 

But it is definitely handled differently.

And that might just be the reason behind the (admittedly mild) backlash...

The media coverage has, inevitably, started to turn a little in the last 24 hours. The inevitable backlash... mainly good-humoured, but masking a deeper sense of unease about the unmitigated positivity of the whole thing.

Regardless, though, the ugliness hasn't come anywhere close to what we saw in Marseille, and ultimately it's a good story – and one we should embrace. This will drive tourism to Ireland. This will make us look good on an international stage. What's not to love?

The Euros will be over in a few weeks, and this will all come to an end – so let's make the most of a good thing while we have it. And let's keep on doing what we're doing, and supporting our supporters.

To see just how powerful their actions are check out this piece on ESPN.


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