Bomb cyclone. Thundersnow. Polar Vortex. Arctic Blast. Snowmageddon.

Roll over Gerry Murphy and tell Jean Byrne the news — somewhere along the way, probably after taking a detour on the highway to hell, the meteorologists appear to have handed over the job of weather forecasting to

AC/DC.

You can blame the Yanks, of course, for whom hype always springs eternal, even if they currently have the legitimate excuse of being walloped by some class of winter hurricane.

Back home, we’re supposed to be thankful for our more temperate clime, something which will be of little consolation to those slopping out dirty water from their homes and businesses.

Atop my own Ivory Tower, a few slates were left teetering on the brink after Storm Eleanor but that’s really no big deal since, as regular readers will be quick to point out — and this column is doubtless already confirming — your correspondent has always been a few tiles short of the full roof.

Which isn’t to say that those of my kind aren’t still suffering from the winter blues.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the technical term, I believe, but football people know it by a different name. Call it CSAD — Close Season Affective Disorder. It’s what League of Ireland fans have been experiencing since the FAI Cup final in November, a slowing down of the life pulse into a kind of sluggish, dispiriting limbo which won’t fully lift until the summer season kicks off, in doubtless frigid temperatures, in the middle of next month.

But in this brand new year of 2018 there’s another, even more acute, strain with which Irish football folk are being forced to contend.

Call this one WCSAD — World Cup Season Affective Disorder. And you don’t need a weatherman to know which way that wind blows.

You might point out that we were here four years ago too but, really, we weren’t in the same place at all.

Sure, Ireland’s dream of going to Brazil had departed with Trap but, with O’Neill and Keano well installed by the new year of 2014, it was possible to look forward to the World Cup finals in South America comforted by the knowledge that Euro qualifying and a bright new dawn for Irish football wouldn’t be too far behind.

And the dream team didn’t let us down, Shane Long’s goal against Germany on a never to be forgotten night at Lansdowne Road, bringing the newly crowned world champions to their knees and providing the stand-out moment of a memorable campaign which concluded a year later with an impressive play-off victory over Bosnia and a place at the Euro 2016
finals in France.

It’s a scientifically proven fact, he lied, that qualification for one of the big two international football jamboree
actively shortens the coldest season.

So, in blessed memory, the winter of 2015/16 basically consisted of two days — Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve — before The Stunning were brewing up a storm again on our TV screens and the next thing we knew we were dancing in the streets of Lille and toasting Robbie Brady with buckets of vino.

T

hat was always going to be a hard act to follow but, once again, MON, Keano, and the boys in green confounded the sceptics and delivered a year-end to remember by finishing off the first leg of their World Cup campaign with that historic away win against Austria, James McClean joining Long in the goal highlights reel with a memorable winner in Vienna.

That still left a lot of work to be done on the road to Russia, of course, but the sight of Ireland sitting atop Group D as Christmas approached, acted like a concentrated shot of global warming for the faithful, once again shortening the winter to about, oh, three or four days, before spring was suddenly sprung again.

And then we drew nil-nil with Wales.

And Seamus Coleman broke his leg.

And the rest you know.

James McClean’s winner in Cardiff will live on in fond memory but, in real terms, only as cold comfort. No bomb cylone or polar vortex or snowmageddon could come even close to replicating the brutal deep freeze effect on the Irish football heart of watching the boys in green collapse on home soil against Denmark on a night when individual errors, tactical misadventure, and a masterclass in clinical finishing from Christian Eriksen combined to create a perfect storm that simply blew away a nation’s hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in 12 years.

Football folk are a resilient lot but it’ll take a lot more than the draw for the Nations League (on January 24) and the prospect of away friendlies in Turkey and France to put a pep back in the collective step of the Green Army.

Last time I checked, there was nothing to suggest that Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane, and the rest of the management team won’t be staying put but as we await official confirmation of that, we’re also still left waiting for clarification on the international futures of senior citizens like Wes Hoolahan, Glenn Whelan, and John O’Shea, amongst others.

People might complain that O’Neill hasn’t always made as much use of Hoolahan as he should have but, frankly, it’s much more worrying to think of an Irish team without any input whatsoever from its most creative player.

On the optimistic side, fingers will be kept crossed that Robbie Brady, Sean
Maguire and, of course, Captain Coleman can return to the fray in fine fettle while 2018 should also see the highly rated Declan Rice make
serious inroads into the
manager’s plans.

But, in the meantime, non-qualification for Russia is having the same effect as the wind chill factor, making the bleak mid-winter seem even bleaker.

We’ll get over it, of course, we always do.

After all, we’ve been here before, many times. But, for now, it’s hard to resist the temptation to just draw the curtains, retreat under the duvet and lull ourselves to sleep with the soft strains of that familiar come-all-ye: hibernation once again.

Happy New Year.


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