Euro 2016: Irish fans consider backing Northern Ireland after defeat to Belgium
Dejected Republic of Ireland fans are mulling a switch in allegiance to Northern Ireland after their drubbing at the hands of Belgium.
Thousands in green jerseys thronged pubs and beer gardens throughout central Dublin after an outdoor fan zone on Dame Lane was unexpectedly pulled.
One of the largest turnouts was at the sprawling Living Room bar off the city’s main thoroughfare O’Connell Street.
Hundreds gathered around one of the biggest screens in the country in an outdoor courtyard, overlooked by neighbouring residents and construction workers who downed tools for an hour and a half to take in the spectacle.
But despite the defiant bellowing of the anthem Fields of Athenry, spirits started to flag with each new goal in the Irish nets.
Darren Dunne, 37, from Tallaght, south Dublin, who came along with his wife and children, admitted he was looking northwards rather than upwards for inspiration for the rest of the tournament.
“Thank God for Northern Ireland,” he shrugged afterwards.
“I’m not changing allegiance, but it just goes to show all you need is a bit of guile and a bit of encouragement.
“There are players in the North playing for Fleetwood Town and the bottom tier of English football, and we’re playing for Premier League clubs, earning 50, 60, 70 grand a week.
“I want to see Northern Ireland doing well now.”
Mr Dunne attacked what he branded “negative play, no control, no skill, bad tackles and bad management” in the Republic of Ireland squad.
“Our players are paid 50 grand a week and they can’t hold onto the football – what does that say?” he asked.
“Yes, we were playing against the world number two but I expected a bit more composure, a bit more guile and for them to be a bit more streetwise.”
Holding out no hope of a reversal in fortunes in the upcoming Italy battle, he glumly predicted: “We’ll be going home now.”
John Clifford, 38, from Dublin, also suggested backing his northern neighbours for the remainder of the tournament .
“I think we are going to change over – we’re going to start following Northern Ireland now, are we?” he laughed with a friend.
“That was really disappointing – we have a massive mountain to climb now. I think we got the backlash from Belgium’s last result.”
Friend Trevor Sheils, 36, also from Dublin, said the Republic would need a miracle to stay in the competition.
“The problem with losing 3-0 is that it gives us more problems, we need a lot of goals to change hands in the group now,” he said.
“That’s a big problem. We are looking at miracles now.
“We have a chance against Italy but the goal difference is a big problem.”
Holding out some more hope was Stephen Ward, 28, from Galway, who urged the Irish team to attack Italy in the same fashion as they came out against Sweden in their opening tie.
“Belgium was the better team throughout the whole game, but it was a pity we let three goals in,” he said.
“Hopefully we can get some result against Italy, hopefully we will attack and play the same way as we did against Italy.”
Pal Martina Sweeney, 26, from Donegal added: “We weren’t tight enough at the back, we weren’t marking great. I’m very disappointed.”