In Biblical terms, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has essentially raised Lazarus from the dead. The Scottish football team, like the nation itself, has been resurrected. Competing with the best of Group D, which includes World Cup holders Germany and a dogged Polish outfit, the Scots find themselves playing sexy football (‘Sexy’ and ‘Scotland’ rarely ever appear in the same sentence.)
Ireland v Scotland: Fists v Kilts – A fierce Rivalry
Unsurprisingly, after getting the better of Ireland in the opening clash at Celtic Park, Strachan will be expecting his men to leave Dublin victorious. On the other hand, Ireland desperately need all three points, as a defeat or draw would all but end any Euro 2016 aspirations.
When weather permits, it is possible to see right across the Scottish-Irish channel. Some people talk about the two nations relationship with England, the similarities and the struggles. However, the historic experiences of Ireland and Scotland vary considerably. Unlike the land of Saints and Scholars, Scotland was never a colony, nor, contrary to fallacious beliefs, ever experienced such a prolonged, bloody English conquest. Ever since the first wave of Irish began to flock to Scotland, unfortunately, they have found themselves labelled oafish, aggressive, and fit for only the most menial of labour. Although narrow-minded, traditional myths have largely disappeared in recent times, intolerance still exists. The rivalry is fierce.
When James McCarthy, the Glaswegian born central midfielder, chose to represent Ireland, the country of his grandparents’ birth, the decision was as controversial as it was divisive. Five years on from making his debut, McCarthy is now an integral part of the Irish squad, and finds himself the subject of much discussion ahead of Saturday’s European Championship qualifier against Scotland in Dublin.
Along with McCarthy, Aiden McGeady, another ‘defector,’ must prepare himself for heckles from the Scottish contingent. Whether the hostilities are fuelled by sectarian sentiments or thoughts of what might have been, the atmosphere will be electric, albeit somewhat unsavoury.
Identity and pride are the catalysts driving the world of football. Be it an amateur 5 aside or a Euro 2016 qualifier, one constant remains – A ‘with us or against us’ mentality. In the eyes of many a Scottish football fan, McGeady and McCarthy are representing the wrong nation, they made an unforgivable choice, and consequences in the form of verbal bullets are the price they must pay for the rest of their playing days. Pantomime villains, perhaps, but villains nonetheless.
Quite simply, this is do or die for Ireland.
Kick-off is at 5.00pm this Saturday, don’t miss it.