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Irish hoping to celebrate in Tallinn

Austin O'Callaghan | 13:42 UK time, Thursday, 10 November 2011

This is unusual. When the Republic of Ireland reached this stage of the qualification process for a major tournament in the past, they were normally billed as the plucky underdogs. But not in Tallinn. In this Estonian football pond, the Irish are the big fish.

It is a sensation which is taking a bit of getting used to for the 3,000 or so travelling supporters.

Yes, I know the FAI received just 1,400 tickets for the game. But that has never stopped ticketless Irish fans from making the journey in the past. So, why start now?

Along the cobbled streets of this charming medieval city, the first Irish flag we notice just happens to be draped over the doorway of what is, to all intents and purposes, a strip club. Opportunistic marketing? Don't they realise the fans are here purely for the football?

Flags of the Republic of Ireland and Estonia in Tallinn

A warm welcome awaits Republic of Ireland fans from the business community in Tallinn

If it is true that France and Germany have been considering new economic proposals this week aimed at reducing the size of the Eurozone, Estonia could have reason to be a little jittery. It joined the Euro in January of this year. Last in first out?

Yet football is clearly the new currency on an upward curve here.

This is new territory for Estonia. They have never qualified for the finals of a major football tournament. But having shown Northern Ireland the qualification exit door in September, the Baltic state genuinely fancies its chances of repeating the feat against another Irish football team.

Renee Iliste would certainly convince you anyway. He runs a medieval market stall near Tallinn's Town Hall square. But a glance at what he is wearing suggests Renee would look equally at home on the set of a Robin Hood film.

Austin O'Callaghan and Renee Iliste in Tallinn

Austin O'Callaghan with market stall trader Renee Iliste in Tallinn

"The times have changed," he says triumphantly. "We are getting famous around the world for our football. I will be dancing everywhere to celebrate if we win. We love the football."

If he is wearing the same outfit, we may have to come back with a camera to see that.

But there is confidence amongst the visiting support too. Seamus Given, who we bump into, is one of boys in green with a ticket. Mind you, it would be a major surprise if he did not have one seeing as his son Shay is in goal on Friday evening.



"Is he (Shay) nervous?"

"Not really no. He is too professional to be nervous. As they say back home, he is too long in the tooth now to get nervous. He just loves playing."

Several members of the current Republic team were not even born the last time the Republic of Ireland qualified for the finals of the European Championship [Germany 1988]. Given senior believes the time has come to do something about that.

"We will not accept a draw tomorrow. We are going all out for the win," added Given Sr.

And who are we to argue with Dad?


  • Comment number 1.


  • Comment number 2.

    Best of luck to the Irish. After the clear injustice of the France playoff a couple of years ago i hope the "Luck of the Irish" kicks in and they navigate what could be a tricky tie against plucky opponents.

    It will be interesting from a, technically, neutral perspective how the Irish approach this first leg. I'd like to see an attacking Irish side really take the game to Estonia and try to build a healthy lead for the return leg, but i just wonder whether the innate Italian defensive mindset of Trappatoni will bring about a tight and nervous affair.

    Trappatoni has built a squad capable of beating anyone on their day, they now have a few genuine matchwinners in their squad to complement the "never say die" spirit that has always been at the heart of any Irish team. A good blend of the fearlessness of youth and the calmness of experience has brought a balance to the squad.

    Hopefully all of these qualities will come together and produce a winning performance to set them up nicely for a party atmosphere at home for the second leg.

    As i say, best of luck Ireland. I hope you make it to Poland and Ukraine, if for no other reason than it gives me another team to follow when England invetiably fail at the first hurdle!

  • Comment number 3.

    Come on Ireland!! Cant face another summer watching Engerland and the rest while wondering 'what if'!.... In Trapp we have faith

  • Comment number 4.

    We need the lads to go out there and put in a professional performance. If the rest of our away games in this campaign are anything to go by we will be tight defensivley and look to nick the all important away goal.

    Come on you Boys in Green!!!


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