Irish hit the bar but miss the goal

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IF ONLY the Irish soccer team had matched the drinkers in Minogues Bar for stamina and commitment last night, things might have been very different.

In temperatures probably hotter than the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, where their team lost 2-1 to Mexico, the customers never lost sight of the goal. Pushing through a crowded defence, always at risk from a low tackle from a handbag on the floor, somehow they always made it through to the bar.

Minogues, in Islington, North London, was no place for the faint-hearted, the uncommitted or those worried by extreme heat as 300 people packed into what is little more than a snug.

Michael Hughes, 22, from Stoke Newington, London, has never been to Ireland, his grandfather came to London some time after the First World War. But last night he had the World Cup baseball hat and shirt, the pint of Guinness and the accompanying belief in Jack Charlton's boys.

During the first half that belief never faltered, although Mexico's opening goal was greeted with such a stunned silence that people outside the bar did not know they had scored.

But the pressure began to tell as Ireland faltered and fumbled in Orlando. Heroes became villains, patience began to evaporate, disappointment boiled to the surface.

Patricia McCann, 19, a visitor from Dublin said: 'After we beat Italy I thought we could take on anybody. It's so disappointing.'

On a table at the back of the bar a woman who had earlier hailed the Irish team, began to cast doubt on their sexuality.

Suddenly the bar exploded, Ireland had scored, hope was renewed. But it was all too late and the sweat, shouting and anguish had been for nothing as Ireland trooped defeated off the pitch.

(Photograph omitted)