There was definitely something odd, eerie and emotional about the Irish fans singing “Fields of Athenry” in the face of a real drubbing by the rather professional, professional footballers of Spain. When Lady Diana tragically died the whole UK nation had a chance to mourn and had much to mourn about. Loss of status in the world, loss of empire, loss of sporting success and perhaps the end of a fairy-tale where there were no happy endings.
Maybe last night in Gdansk we witnessed a kind of Irish national grieving on a very public world stage. It would takes perhaps years of academic research to pull apart the current state of the Irish psyche but apparently the Psychologists agree that how a person or a population copes with adversity or tragedy is the mark of how long the recovery will take.
So maybe last night we buried the Celtic tiger, the fairy-tale hopes, the Jack Charlton era and the gloom that chokes this country like mustard gas.
Maybe Ronnie Whelan was right when he said the Irish players were “chasing phantoms”. But perhaps the whole Irish nation was exorcising the ghosts of the past 25 years.
The new Ireland starts here.