Monday, October 12, 2009

Ireland 2 - Italy 2

The atmosphere was upbeat from the time we got into Fagan's in Drumcondra. Ireland had a chance to make a statement against the 4th ranked team in the world, Italy. We were 4 hours from kickoff but the locals were ready to go. Fagan's is the nicest pub I have been to in Ireland; situated 10 minutes on foot from Croke Park, it is undoubtedly one of the main hubs to get some hydration going before the big soccer (football) match. Italy sat 4 points ahead, but an unlikely Irish victory would pull the boys in green to 1 point behind with one game to go for each squad. By 6:00 it was getting increasingly difficult to move around.

The aura at Croke Park confirmed how much this game meant to the Irish. A sea of white and green was evident as we sat behind one of the goals, with the entire main stands right in front of us. The Irish came out like a house on fire, going up 1-0 after 8 minutes on a set piece from Liam Lawrence to midfielder Glenn Whelan. A cautious optimism began to grow on all sides of us. The Italians passed the ball around well in the midfield but didn't seriously threaten through the first 20 minutes. Timely stops by stalwarts Richard Dunne and John O'Shea quickly became a familiar site. But the Italians broke through on the 26th minute off the head of Argentinian-born Mauro Camorenesi. The rest of the first half was largely uneventful.

The second half began much like the first ended, with the ball staying mostly in the midfield. Chances were scarce; Ireland made a few substitutions. The crowd began to grow more and more restless as shots went by the wayside. A 1-1 draw seemed more and more likely until substitute Stephen Hunt created a free-kick opportunity from just outside the left end of the box. The crowd grew eerily quiet as he lined it up. Hunt delivered a beautiful bending ball to the far side and it met the head of a diving Sean St. Ledger. Pandemonium the top of my head it is one of the top 3 moments of my career as a sport spectator.

All we had to do was hold off the Italians for 4 more minutes. It all happened so errant pass and the Azzurri were coming at our goal faster than Rex Ryan to Mickey D's after a Jets game. And the unthinkable yet somewhat expected happened; the Italians put on in the back of the net. It was substitute Alberto Gilardino. A draw was still a good result for the Irish against the powerhouse nation,but the way it went down was heartbreaking.

Next up for the Irish will be the final group qualifier against hapless Montenegro. With second place in the group already secured, the game does not have all that much meaning. Next month the Irish will be paired in a playoff with the likes of France, Russia or Greece in a home and home matchup. The winner on aggregate goals will head to the World Cup in South Africa in June. More on this as it develops.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Thank You 2009 Mets!

Thank you Mets on behalf of your fans for a terrific 2009 season! There's no better way than a 70-92 record with the 2nd highest payrool in baseball to open up beautiful CitiField. Thank you for having a surplus of Brooklyn Dodgers dedications (all well and good), but a lack of monuments and tributes to the current team. Refusing to retire Piazza's number? His homer on 09/21/2001 (youtube it) should be worth it enough. Thank you for handing Omar Minaya the power to sign Oliver Perez to a 3 year, $36 million contract. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but my pet bird Boris could have seen that one coming. I don't even have a bird. Thanks also to Omar for further embarrassing the organization with a personal attack on the integrity of esteemed Mets team beat writer Adam Rubin. The parade of thanks to Omar continues with his propensity to stick with his buddy Tony Bernazard. Our former VP of player development had such a good rapport with the minor leaguers that he took his shirt off and threatened to fight the entire AA Binghamton Mets after a loss in the team locker room. Finally, a particularly whole-hearted thank you to the training and medical staff. Your blatant ineptitude and mistreatment of injuries to the likes of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and John Maine killed any postseason hopes shortly after the season began. The season is now over and Reyes is now just having surgery. Truly an unforgettable season for all involved. I'm glad ticket prices rose exponentially in a down economy as well. Fantastic work. R.I.P. 2009 Mets.

(Editor's note:) At least we got Jeff Francouer for the listless and injury-prone Ryan Church. Frenchy is a good fit for the 2010 Mets and beyond. Love that guy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Spitfire Thoughts (10/04)

  • The Cliffs of Moher are a real solid place to spend 1-2 hours of your life at. We went in the midst of 40 mph wind gusts and all managed to not take the 650 foot dive down, which was nice. Great spot for pictures and all that good stuff.

  • I have just obtained a ticket to the Ireland-Italy world cup qualifier match next Saturday in Dublin. To say I'm excited would be a gross understatement. Not really even sure what to expect in terms of atmosphere and whatnot, but I know there will be 82,000 Irish fans pushing for the boys in green to pick up a World Cup berth for South Africa this coming summer. More on this after it happens

  • The New York Knickerbockers broke training camp yesterday and are currently opening up their preseason schedule this minute against the Nets. I'll be the first person to say that I usually get excited over the start of a Knicks season for no apparent reason, but I think there is a little light at the end of the tunnel . Danilo "The Rooster" Gallinari seems to be over his lingering back troubles that limited his rookie year. Al Harrington has emerged as the veteran leader we have missed the past few years. Darko Milicic finally gives us someone who will block a shot. Jordan Hill and Toney "Ghostface" Douglas bring an infusion of youth and energy that should help the whole team improve. What does all this mean? Probably minimal improvement, since so many teams in the East improved as well. A run at a playoff berth might be what it takes to convince Lebron or DWade to make their move to the world's most famous arena next summer. We really need to dump Fat Eddy's contract too. Dumping Fat Eddy's contract is like fighting a dinosaur. It's very hard.

  • Watching NFL games on Gamecast on my laptop is really lame.

  • Getting great reports on the Springsteen concerts back home at Giants Stadium is very bittersweet. I would love to be there but am very happy to hear my friends and family having a great time. There's no show like the Boss in Jersey. Rumors circulating of 15 shows next summer to open up the new stadium in the Meadowlands. I'm in for a minimum of 5.