John O’Shea, who was forced off injured (having started the move for Ireland’s goal), along with unused substitutes Stephen Hunt, Eddie Nolan and Brian Murphy, were among the more immediate victims of a great sporting injustice.
So too FAI chief executive John Delaney, who was left to count the cost of the Republic’s elimination from next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa – Thierry Henry’s blatant double-handball assist for France’s extra-time equaliser having sent them through 2-1 on aggregate.
“Every time I go to a FIFA conference I hear all about fair play and integrity,” the former Waterford United secretary said at a press conference in Dublin yesterday. “Well, this wasn’t Bohemians against Waterford in the cup. The whole world was watching last night and if FIFA really care about fair play and integrity they have a chance to show it. It’s up to the people who run the game to step forward because well done is better than well said.”
Waterford’s Minister for Sport Martin Cullen had also written to FIFA President Sepp Blatter in support of the FAI’s stance, citing FIFA’s Fair Play Code “which advocates under its first golden rule of Play Fair that ‘Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly.’”
Despite widespread calls by the team’s joint-assistant manager Liam Brady and other politicians for a replay given the gross injustice of the result, FIFA this morning dismissed the prospect, preferring to pin the blame on the match officials than take the rap as the game’s rulers.
Mr Delaney put in a call to FIFA this morning (Friday) to seek a response ahead of an FAI board meeting at 2pm, insisting that if the notion of fair play is to be perceived as anything other than “rhetoric”, then a replay must be arranged. Knowing FIFA were unlikely to yield, he pointedly requested the French Football Federation to offer Ireland a rematch, which realistically was seen as our only hope.
However, as most commentators had predicted, Ireland’s calls have fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, unless the French come forth then we will have been treated like football’s Paddy lasts once more.