The minutes are ticking away. It’s getting closer to 3.30 (Budapest time). My nerves have been at me since I got up this morning. I’ve been going around the flat in my colours, trying to occupy myself with work. Mindless work. I can’t concentrate. I so want our boys to win in Cardiff today and yet I’m besieged by the age-old Irish fear that when we’re favourites, we don’t perform.
What is it about us? What are we like? Why can’t we cope with compliments and due praise? Why do we do so much better when we’re the underdog, when we have to prove something to someone?
In an effort to understand, I did some digging. Anything to distract myself and fill the next couple of hours before I head out to watch the game in the company of Welsh friends whom I hope I’ll be consoling come six o’clock.
Much of the inferiority complex that seems to distinguishing feature of the Irish psyche, and of the consequent sensitivity to real or imagined slights, may stem from the combination of cultural and political pressure.
I can make that fit – if I think about it hard enough. But surely there’s an easier explanation?
The National Identity Management Agency did a study last year that identified three of our major flaws:
procrastination, the inability to delay gratification, and the belief in the correctness of one’s point of view
They prescribed comedy as the solution and no doubt if we get a result today, we’ll all be laughing. But in the meantime, we’re a bag of nerves, too afraid to jinx the outcome by being confident, which may well come across to the rest of the world as indicative of our national insecurity. Freud has said that we’re the only race who cannot be helped by psychoanalysis and perhaps he has a point.
We field an all-Ireland rugby team and so when playing at home, have two anthems – our National Anthem, Amhrain na bhFiann, as gaeilge (in Irish), and a Rugby anthem, Ireland’s Call. When playing away, we sing the latter only. And while both stir something in the cockles of this jaded heart, the Call awakens hope, kick-starts the prayers, and provides a modicum of fortitude for what lies ahead.
We’ve won our last ten games (FACT). We’re playing well (FACT). We have some of the greatest players in the world (FACT). All we need now is a little belief.
As to the mysteries of the Irish psyche … they’ll have to wait until I’m less distracted. Go on the lads!