HELEN MOORHOUSE VOICEOVER ARTIST / AUTHOR
I've had to turn the radio off. It's getting me too excited – people recounting their memories of Germany '88 and Italia '90. The ghostly echo of Maire Ni Braonain's plaintive 'Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole.....' bringing a nostalgic tear to my eye.
I cannot get excited. It is not allowed. If I do what everyone else is doing – bunt my house, buy some nice crisps, open a beer or order a pizza. If I so much as twitch with an inkling of enthusiasm, we will lose. The stars will re-align themselves, destiny will cock a snook of some sort and the Group of Death will become the Group of Utter Annihilation. Croatia will not only defeat us, but they will eat our flesh and then come for our firstborn.
Sport works like this. If I remain disinterested, we win. If I'm supportive of our efforts then we won't. Thus it was, and thus it always will be. If you need the team you support to score, the horse you're cheering to cross the line first, then please ask me to leave the room. Some of the greatest sporting moments of all time have taken place after I've excused myself to nip to the loo and some of our crushing defeats have happened simply because I've uttered those words of doom; “C'mon Ireland”.
I am now of the belief that our success in '88 and '90 were because of two things. In the summer of 1988, I was doing my Inter Cert. And in the summer of 1990 it was the Leaving. Three things, actually - when Bonner saved Timofte's kick, I was doing my Matric. (Does that even exist anymore?) The second my last exam was over and I thought, finally, I can settle down and revel in this incredibly uplifting experience, it was as if it somehow released Toto Schillaci into the universe whereby he brought about our swift and immediate downfall.
So no. I'm not interested in Euro 2012. I can't be bothered. No, seriously, I can't. If we're to stand any chance of justifying the amount, as a nation, we've spent on car flags in the last month, then I must not be allowed to so much as touch the remote control when Ireland play. I must lock myself away with a book, or a documentary about architecture, or the box set of a Danish cop show.
And why is it so imperative that I'm kept away from any involvement whatsoever? Because we need this badly. In the same way as we need an Ark, we need something positive to happen pretty soon before we all die of despair. Not to put any pressure on Trap and the lads but they're our last hope – we're broke, we're grumpy, we're cold and wet. We need something to unify us, to make us jump in the air, stand shoulder to shoulder with neighbour and complete stranger alike. To make us smile again.
And it has to be soccer – somehow, inexplicably and unfairly, the magic doesn't work quite as well no matter how well, say, the rugby team does, or how many medals Katie Taylor brings home. There's just something about football – eleven men, many of whom are there purely by dint of the fact that their grannies were conceived in Kiltimagh; who understand the words of the national anthem about as well as their manager understands the entire English language; who have the hopes of an entire nation literally at their feet.
I admit that I am the fairest of fairweather fans. I know little about the beautiful game other than that it's called the beautiful game. But it's stating the obvious to say that Euro 2012, and Ireland's place in it, is about so much more than just sport. It's hopes and dreams and a quite terrifying level of nostalgia.
There's a worry that we've gotten just a tad overexcited about all this, that too much is riding on it, that the shadow of something that happened over twenty years ago is hanging just that bit low over the 2012 squad. But do we really care? Crashing disappointment is always just around the next corner for Ireland but for now, this is all we've got so we're making the absolute most of it.
So enjoy it everyone – I'll do my bit by staying well out of the way, much as the longing to shake a shamrock will grow overwhelming at the first strains of Amhran na bhFiann. Or 'Blahblahdafleen' as many of our players might mouth it. You never know, we might just get our soccer mojo back again, create another heady summer of memories to sustain us through the winter and all the way to Brazil in 2014. And if we can do that, then we're unstoppable. We might even win Eurovision again.