A second hat trick for Robbie as his record breaking Irish football career continues, with 59 international goals. It was my first ever visit to AVIVA STADIUM, three years old, and I LOVE IT. One of my favourite stadiums in the world.
The last time I watched Ireland play over here was at Croke Park, long time home of GAA, in March 2007. The first soccer match ever where gaelic football and hurling are kings. They beat Wales 1-0. A great facility but a large green expanse for the sports played there, and it lacked atmosphere for The Beautiful Game. This was after the old Landsdowne Road stadium, the oldest in the world, was torn down to make room for The Aviva.
The Faroe Islands are not a great crowd pleaser and the attendance suffered, but I LOVE AVIVA. Great architecture, easy to get to..next to the Landsdowne Road DART station 3 stops from downtown. The first thing that I noticed after taking my seat in the huge press box was the sound system. There were no mumbled anouncements or echos. Must be great for concerts too.
Holding the hand of his four year old son Robbie Jr., captain Keane age 32, led out the Irish for his 126th cap. passing the total of Shay Given. Now with the LA Galaxy, the club allowed him leave of absence to play at Wembley against England, the friendly a few days ago against Georgia, and this WIN OR ELSE World Cup decider.
The squad has spent almost two weeks under Giovanni Trapattoni and the tie in London and the easy win against a Georgian team reduced to 10 men gave them confidence. In the official programme Billy George commented that "facing a team like the Faroes for a manager like Trapattoni must be like trying to eat steak with a loose set of dentures. It is not a prospect to be viewed with anything approaching comfort!".
The visitors are ranked 161st in the World by FIFA. However, no team is a walkover these days. Back to June 3, 1995 with Jack Charlton in charge in Eschen, Liechtenstein they only tied 0-0.
In the morning I went to the new FA of Ireland spacious headquarters in a complex with headquarters for all Irish sports and the Olympic Committee, with fields waiting to be developed. 150 staff now work there for FAI. I used to visit the old HQ in Merrion Square, one of the loveliest squares in the world, but the offices were cramped. www.fai.ie
The match wasn't much to remember, no classic match, but a hat-trick for Robbie was very special against the part timers. In the fifth minute he converted a pass from Aiden McGeady and his 2nd after 55th minutes with an assist from Seamus Coleman. In the 59th minute he scored his third passed Faroes goalie Gunnar Nielsen. I was impressed by McGeady and also Wes Hoolahan, making his first ever start at age 31.
Ireland cannot win their group outright and have to rely on a play-off success if they are to reach Brazil next year. Sweden on September 6th at home, then Austria and Germany away. The Germans will win the group and are on top with 16 points from 6 matches. Austria are tied with Ireland on 11 points and Sweden have 8 points from 5. Kazakhstan with 1 point and Faroes with 0 complete the group. www.fifa.com