THE BROADER PICTURE / Ireland's World Cup runneth over

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The Independent Culture
THE IRISH Republic's dream of footballing glory may be over, but not for want of trying. Not, at any rate, on the part of those Irishmen and women whose contributions to their country's World Cup campaign were made at home in Dublin. For most of the past three weeks, residents of the city's tower-blocks have festooned balconies with flags, streamers and teddy bears in team colours. Exuberant women pensioners in party mood have been putting bunting all over their inner-city houses. On match days, parents have dressed toddlers in full Irish kit. Even Dublin's Indian restaurants have followed neighbouring shops in painting good wishes, tricolours and cartoon Jack Charltons on their windows.

A climate bordering on national hysteria has prompted all manner of eccentric behaviour. A grown man in the Crumlin district erected an 11ft plywood Statue of Liberty on his chimney, complete with halogen-lit illuminations, attracting car-loads of sightseers. A family in the inner-city Liberties area invoked Julius Caesar to mark Ireland's famous victory over Italy, hanging a huge tricolour from its first floor windows with the inscription 'Veni, Vidi, Vici.' A Mullingar couple painted the entire exterior of their home in tricolour green, white and orange. Nor has World Cup fever been confined to the home decorators. Dublin's sex shops have been doing a lively trade in tricolour G-strings and three-pack tricolour condoms (one green, one white, one gold), while lingerie shops report that the emerald-green World Cup Wonderbra has become an instant best-seller. And then there have been the supporters beyond the grave. Scarves, rosettes and flags have gathered on around 60 headstones of departed football fans in north Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, while florists report unprecedented demand for green, white and yellow wreaths. Such gestures are not unprecedented: the city's numerous Manchester United fans have a tradition of paying respects to dead fans by decorating their graves, and some graves even have permanent memorabilia, such as stone footballs. But never before has the cemetery burst into colour on such a spectacular scale. 'It's a lovely gesture,' said cemetery manager George McCullough, 'as long as it's done tastefully. If a father or brother was a football fanatic in life, it's only right he should be remembered in the same way in death.'

Typically, Dubliners have not let Monday's defeat by the Netherlands spoil their fun. Decorations are just as suitable for 'welcome back' parties as for match-by-match support. And while Jack Charlton and his players must now reflect on the mistakes that cost them their hopes of further glory, Dublin's stay-at-home fans can look back on a campaign in which they never put a foot wrong.

(Photographs omitted)