I attended the Ireland vs Brazil friendly football match last evening at Croke Park. I had an excellent seat just on the half way line for a great view of the match. The ground wasn't quite full, but I'd guess there were over 60,000 at the game.
Hill 16 was set aside for the Brazilian fans who really did create a carnival atmosphere and lots of colour. It was cruel that they were exposed to the rain which dampened their spirits a little bit in the second half.
As it was a friendly game I did not expect too much serious football. The Brazilians owned the ball for most of the game, but our lads defended well and limited their chances. There was some skill and trickery, but not all from the Brazilians - Celtic's Aidan McGeady also got the crowd going with some fancy footwork.
The game was settled with one goal in the 67th minute. In the period before the goal, Ireland were actually doing well, with Damian Duff getting on the ball a lot and passing defenders with ease. The crowd (me included) started chanting "Olé" for every Irish pass - we were getting cocky, but the "Oooooh" came when Duff lost the ball in their penalty area. Seconds later the ball was in the Irish net after a lightening break and a cool finish from Robinho - super goal.
Curiously, a lot of people started leaving the ground with 15 minutes to go. In the section where I was seated the seats were €55 each, the best team in the world were playing, and Ireland were only 1-0 down and giving a good account of themseleves. Why do they bother turning up in the first place?
One of my heroes - former Ireland and Preston North End goalkeeper Alan Kelly, was honoured at half time with an Eircom Legend Award. He wasn't there to collect it himself (Alan Kelly Junior collected on his behalf).
Overall, a good night's football. Sadly, it was flagged well in advance that Ronaldinho wouldn't be playing. Even worse, Kaka pulled out the day before the match - I felt a bit cheated and wondered if there was any intention on their parts to play at all. These guys could fill a stadium on their own. Kaka was even on the programme cover!