God, girls and Guinness for Irish fans

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL can count on support from every section of society and that fact will not be lost on the clutch of Roman Catholic priests who attend all Ireland's games if they find themselves seated on the plane today beside the staff of a Dublin escort agency who have been booked for World Cup duties, writes Alan Murdoch.

'Diana', of Private Temptations, told Irish Radio that four of her women are flying out to the United States, pounds 4,000 cash having been paid in advance by Irish clients. She explained that her customers 'wouldn't have time between football and drinking to make other arrangements' in the US. 'There's nothing like tried and trusted territory,' she proclaimed proudly.

The link between sex and football is also being exploited with the launch of the emerald-green World Cup Wonderbra, aimed presumably at the hordes of teenage girls chanting 'Gary Kelly's sexy]' who were prominent among the 8,000 seeing the team off at Dublin airport last week.

In Dublin, cup hysteria is now in top gear. The players' portraits are painted on shop and pub windows, and corporation houses are covered in tricolour bunting. US Embassy staff have been sweating to process a mountain of visas for the 12,000 travelling Irish fans.

The sense of a national mobilisation has also reached Guinness, who thoughtfully flew out kegs of Jack Charlton's favourite gargle to his hotel in Orlando to protect him against dehydration.

A similar enthusiasm has landed government ministers in trouble. By a remarkable coincidence seven will be in America during the competition. Public grumbling has been less about the cost to taxpayers than about their claims to be going there on 'important business'.

Win or lose, the Irish are already gloating. Giant billboards across the country feature Irish tricolours and a miserable Terry Venables, captioned 'Never mind Tel, we'll bring you back some duty-free,' and below: 'The Irish team have Adidas boots. England have our commiserations.'

Private Temptations' deal is a key pointer to Irish form. Their girls have been booked for the US until at least the quarter-finals.