In Dublin, the ecstasy

The Irish Triumphant: After the white-knuckle rides, this was a victory that the fans took in their stride
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The Independent Football

It was the curious case of the mouse that didn't roar – at least, not as loudly as it used to. Despite having come to a standstill for Ireland's 3-0 World Cup victory against Saudi Arabia yesterday, Dublin failed to erupt into the kind of green, white and orange frenzy that has marked heroic one-all draws.

It was the curious case of the mouse that didn't roar – at least, not as loudly as it used to. Despite having come to a standstill for Ireland's 3-0 World Cup victory against Saudi Arabia yesterday, Dublin failed to erupt into the kind of green, white and orange frenzy that has marked heroic one-all draws.

The result clinched Ireland's progression to the second round, yet the beeping cars on O'Connell Street were less thickly packed than in former years, their bonnets strangely unadorned by jubilant pedestrians wearing tricolours and green face paint.

The O'Connell monument was clear of dancing men in leprechaun hats, and nobody even thought to scale the plinth to garland tricolours around the heads of the Liberator's attendant nymphs.

In truth, Ireland is a more prosperous, confident place than it used to be, and yesterday it expected its men to do their duty against the unfortunate Saudis. After the team's previous white-knuckle 1-1 comebacks against Germany and the fancied African champions Cameroon, so comfortable a victory seemed almost anticlimactic.

Not only did Ireland exceed its pre-match target of a two-goal victory, but knowledge of Germany's 2-0 lead over Cameroon in the other group game drained all the tension out of the last 15 minutes.

Still, there was satisfaction in seeing Ireland win only its second World Cup finals match in normal time – the first being the 1-0 victory over Italy in 1994. And there was relief that Mick McCarthy's men had weathered a spell of surprisingly intense Saudi pressure after the stout-spraying joy of Robbie Keane's seventh-minute goal. "It's brilliant," said Maire Kearney, a 32-year-old television producer watching the match in the historical Stag's Head pub.

"I couldn't believe it in the first half when after the goal Ireland just went to pieces and it really looked like the Saudis would get to score," she said. "It was mere luck that they didn't. Ireland didn't really deserve to win 3-0 but I'm glad that they did."

Seamus White, 33, an information technology manager, said he was surprised at how well Saudi Arabia had taken the game to Ireland.

"They probably deserved to score one goal as a consolation but I'm chuffed they didn't. I've just decided to take a half day from work to celebrate, and I suspect I may well be late in for work tomorrow morning."

Dave Brown, 36, who owns adelicatessen, sipped his drink with all the satisfaction of a man who has €10 on the Republic to win the World Cup at 150 to 1. "We were lucky and they were very bad. But McCarthy got our lads to open up again in the second half. It was the same against Cameroon and Germany," he said.

And what about the Keane who wasn't there? Was the sacked pre-tournament skipper Roy still missed by Ireland's triumphant team?

"In this game he was, definitely, because we had problems in midfield," said Mr Brown. "But what can you do? He's a great player so of course he's missed, but he's not playing for us any more, that's all."

Like most Irish employers, Mr Brown had made special arrangements for the World Cup fixtures. "We had a meeting before the tournament started and we decided we would close for all the Ireland games. A lot of the staff are French, but we decided not to close for the France games. Just as well."

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