Doing The Poznan. Turning your back on your troubles.
It’s approaching midnight deep inside the bowels of the Municipal Stadium in Poznan and Shay Given hasn’t gone yet.
That’s why he’s still here.
He hasn’t gone yet.
The Republic of Ireland’s most capped player not only had to face the Croatian front two of Mandzukic and Jelavic on the pitch, he also got a good chasing from the people in doping control.
Given was chosen for the random drug testing after the match, and in a room off the corridor nearest the Ireland dressing room, he waited and waited… and waited.
Sometimes, as the Irish found to their cost last night, it’s hard to perform when everyone is watching.
Despite taking in quite a few drinks it just wasn’t happening for Shay. Eventually, accompanied by the drug testers, he returned to the dressing room to shower and change and then again went back to doping control.
When the sample was finally produced, Shay was free to go, but before doing so he spoke to me about the disappointment of defeat in the opening game of Ireland’s European Championship campaign.
“We’re up against the so-called best team in the world next in Spain, so we’re just going to have to get a result,” he said, before revealing how desperately sorry the whole squad was for letting the fans and the country down.
However, the good news from an Irish perspective is that he said he felt no ill effects of his recent injuries and the hope is we don’t see a night like the one in Poznan again.
Given was one of the players that Ireland were relying on for these championships. He, along with several others, were bringing to the table the benefit of experience. Or so we thought.
The Republic of Ireland has the oldest squad at the Euros.
At 73, Trapattoni became the oldest coach at a finals, the previous record holder was the 71-year-old Otto Baric, who coached Croatia at Euro 2004.
With the benefit of certainty, Ireland lined out against Croatia numbers one to 11 as per the official squad list. How often does that happen in modern tournament football?
Between them, John O’Shea and Richard Dunne now have over 150 caps.
Though he’s only 26, Aidan Mc Geady, Ireland’s only ever-present in qualifying, reached a half-century against Croatia. If he plays in all three games, Damien Duff will become a centurion in the final group game against Italy.
Kevin Doyle, who some will claim was the fall guy for Ireland’s woes, being hauled off after Ireland went 3-1 down (as if it was his fault), will achieve 50 appearances for his country if he plays against Spain, and even Whelan and Andrews now have 70 caps in total.
That’s a lot of game time.
But the daddy of them all is captain Robbie Keane.
This is a man with 53 goals for his country in 117 appearances. This is the man who scored seven goals in qualifying and who has carried himself and his country with great dignity and honour in the lead up to the championships.
Yet collectively it seemed that Ireland suffered stage fright.
There was an electric charge flowing down with the rain from the stands.
After the long build-up and the air of giddy excitement created by the fans at home and in Poland, the stadium was brimming with emotional intensity.
The well wishes of the president and his people, one of the best renditions of the anthem in any arena, all this weighed heavily on green shoulders.
The occasion, it seemed, got the better of them.
Croatia manager Slaven Bilic spoke to me afterwards and acknowledged that his side’s experience of tournament football stood to them.
They have competed in four of the last five, winning each of their group games last time out. None of this is new to them.
Luka Modric spoke to RTÉ as well and claimed that nothing that Ireland did was unexpected. They knew exactly what was needed to counter our crude tactics.
There was no shortage of effort on Ireland’s part but technically we came up short.
Blood, sweat and tears is simply not enough at this level, the elite of European international football.
As one member of the UEFA staff said last night: “This all seems new to Ireland. You must remember, you’re in the big time now.”
Tony O’Donoghue is RTÉ’s soccer correspondent