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Sentimentalisation Of Irishness[]

The Republic of Ireland's first appearance in a World Cup in 1990 led to a massive epidemic of everyone pretending to love Ireland. Commentators and anchormen misleadingly painted Jack Charlton's team - mostly experienced players drawn from the top flight of English football - as clueless underdogs, and hence greeted their laboured journey to the quarter-finals with excessive, delighted incredulity. After the Irish had beaten Romania on penalties in a near-unbearably boring second round clash, ITV's studio experts shelved their analysis of the game and rounded off the show by singing 'Molly Malone' and 'Cockles And Mussles', Jim Rosenthal leading the chorus in an unexpectedly moving tenor.

'Irish eyes' were said to be 'smiling' every time the men in green won a free-kick; commentators incessantly referred to 'Guinness flowing back home'. This stereotyping of Ireland as a happy-go-lucky underdog, loved by all neutrals and supported by a bunch of cheerful drunks, has been emulated by modern commentators such as Peter Drury and is still regularly seen today.

Among this wild favouritism, unpalatable truths about the Republic of Ireland went unspoken: chiefly, that half of their team was not really Irish at all, with three squad members reportedly unable to point to the country on a map of Great Britain and Ireland; and that their progress to the last eight was achieved via a hideous route one style which made no-nonsense football look attractive by comparison. Incredibly they scored only two goals in their five matches, and - penalties aside - did not actually win a single match. They returned to a heroes' welcome in Dublin.