What The Hell Has Happened To The Atmosphere At Ireland Home Matches?

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Irish rugby fans long standing tradition of being one of the most respectful and passionate is increasingly worsening game by game.

The main gripe I have with Ireland supporters at the moment is their insistent need to boo and jeer opposition place kickers. Irish rugby grounds have always been ones that withhold the respectful tradition of staying silent for the opposition’s kicker. Yesterday at the Aviva, Owen Farrell had six attempts at goal and for each one he was subject to mindless jeering from what seems to be a current crop of supporters who don’t understand the traditions of Irish rugby.

Any supporter who thinks that booing and hurling insults at the opposition is going to put them off their game is sadly mistaken. Kickers are subject to the same treatment all around the world. What once made Irish rugby special was the eerie silence that descended upon Lansdowne Road (and other grounds around the country) while an opposing player lined up a kick. This is always going to have a longer lasting effect than shouting or whistling.

If the English fans had turned around and handed out the same treatment to Ronan O’Gara yesterday, the home supporters would have cried foul. Instead, they remained respectfully silent for Ireland’s three place kicks.

The same treatment was dished out to Morgan Parra last December when Leinster played Clermont Auvergne but like Farrell, he effortlessly slotted the majority of his kicks, despite the ‘hostile’ treatment from partisan home crowd.

Thomond Park has continued its long standing tradition of observing silence for the kickers, despite the rise of a seemingly younger generation of supporters who might have been ignorant to what has gone before them. The decision to allocate school children in a designated area of the ground is one that is regularly questioned amongst the terraces by rugby fans. During the Heineken Cup pool clash between Munster and Edinburgh in October, the majority of the crowd remained quiet but behind the goal there were a few cries from squeaking voices.

The obvious solution seems to be to get rid of this designated school children zone. Perhaps the youngsters could learn a thing or two from spending time amongst the supporters responsible for this tradition.

That day in Thomond Park, the stadium announcer politely informed the ignorant of Munster’s long standing tradition. On neither occasion on my last two trips to the Aviva Stadium did the stadium announcer try and encourage the home support to observe silence for kickers. He was probably more concerned with preparing the obscene music that is played after a home score, which brings me onto my next gripe.

When did Irish rugby attempt to generate an atmosphere at our home ground straight of an American sporting event? And who was responsible for this nonsensical decision?

That Dropkick Murphy’s from the Departed has earned the title of the most annoying song of the last decade. As Ireland ran out on to the pitch yesterday to this pointless music, you couldn’t help but feel it took something special away from the atmosphere.

Irish rugby has now unfortunately gone down the road of playing this ridiculous music after each time they score, much in the same vein as is seen on a Saturday afternoon across English soccer grounds. This has to stop. And soon.

But what was worse yesterday was the decision to repeatedly play a loud drum noise to entice a unified ‘Ireland’ roar at the end of the beat. Any rugby supporter that needs encouragement from a PA system to shout for their team should stay at home on the couch where they belong. It’s another sure sign of taking the game away from its roots. If the younger generation are growing up with this as the norm, what state will Irish rugby support be in ten years’ time?

Since Irish rugby has moved back to the redeveloped Lansdowne Road, it has far from been a fortress. From Ireland’s fourteen games played at the Aviva stadium, they have won just six times. It is a damning statistic that highlights Ireland’s apparent lack of home advantage.

With a packed house in attendance yesterday, it was the away supporters that were the loudest. The only times during the game that the Irish fans made themselves heard was when they whistled and jeered to drown out the cries of ‘Swing Low’ and when they did similar in their foolish attempts to put Farrell off his place kicks.

With the direction Irish support has been going in the last few years, is it any wonder that away teams don’t fear their trip to Dublin anymore?