Date: 17th June 2015
THERE were reportedly over 20,000 travelling fans which headed to Dublin last weekend for Scotland’s crunch tie with the Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
As always, Scottish fans made it into the away end and even outnumbered the Irish in hospitality sections of the ground, writes Ben Ramage.
Once again, their behaviour was a credit to the nation. The Tartan Army has a reputation for having some of the best behaved and most enjoyable travelling fans in the world, and even a trip to a city with 1,000 pubs could not tarnish that reputation.
Irish police commended the behaviour of the Tartan Army faithful, who joyously watched Scotland come back to take a valuable point from Ireland, who took the lead through an offside Jonathan Walters goal.
The game was a similarly physical battle to the first match at Celtic Park in November, with Ireland unwilling to play on purely footballing terms once again. James McCarthy, a figure of much derision within the away end, was extremely lucky to not see red after an elbow in Russell Martin’s face left the centre-back needing treatment.
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan made the surprising decision to leave talisman and fan favourite Ikechi Anya on the bench, but remedied this at half-time which had an almost immediate effect. Just a minute into the second half, he linked up well with Shaun Maloney, who scored yet another goal in what is turning into a superlative campaign for the midfielder.
The ball cannoned off the back of Irish defender John O’Shea, granted, but given that Walter’s goal was clearly offside and McCarthy was lucky to even be on the pitch, the Scots were certainly due a bit of the famous Irish luck which was clearly swirling around the Aviva.
Ireland threw everything they had at Strachan’s side in the dying moments of the match, knowing that a draw would do very little for their faltering qualification hopes. But the Scots held on valiantly, sparking jubilation in the stands as the Tartan Army took one step closer to France 2016 with another valuable away point.
The evening celebrations were pre-empted by partying a day either side in Dublin’s famous Temple Bar area, as well as throughout the city. The Irish Garda were hugely impressed with the fans behaviour, even stopping to get photos with the kilted thousands.
The Irish fans must be commended also, joining in with Scottish support on every corner and giving back as good as they got in light-hearted jibing. The atmosphere was truly electric and both sets of fans made it an unforgettable trip for anyone lucky enough to be there.
If any fans deserve a major tournament again after nearly 20 years out in the cold, it is surely the Tartan Army. This point could be crucial by the end, but Strachan must keep up the momentum going with a victory over Georgia in the next game a must before we welcome Germany and Poland to Hampden Park.
Maloney’s goal could yet be the difference, and if Scotland do make it to the Euros in France next year, it will definitely be in no small part thanks to the magic in his boots. Aligned with the Tartan Army’s ferocious and passionate backing, Strachan’s side certainly have one hell of a chance.
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