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So near, so far

Graeme McDowell didn't win the U.S. open last Sunday, and neither did Padraig Harrington. But they combined for the kind of Irish performance in a golf major that was itself a glorious standout in the history of the Irish game. Just consider the run in the U.S. open for the past three years: First, first, shared second, joint fourth. That's top caliber.

Alas, the same can't be said for the Irish soccer team which, given its Euro 2012 performance, has a ways to come back before it again attains any kind of caliber.

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Bluster and foolish predictions apart, the Republic does not reach the finals of the World Cup or European Championships with the kind of expectations of ultimate success harbored by the likes of Germany, Spain or Brazil.

But there is always hope, always a chance. And in the last couple of decades or so there have been games, moments, that live on for ever in the memories of diehard and casual fans alike.

Back in Euro '88 is was the win over England. In the 1990 World Cup it was getting to the quarter-final. Four years later it was the win over Italy (revenge for the 1990 quarter-final loss to the Azzurri) that became the hallowed memory. In 2002 it was Robbie Keane's least ditch equalizer against Germany.

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This time around, in Euro 2012, the takeaway memory was, well, an argument can be made for the fans singing "The Fields of Athenry" over and over in the face of certain defeat.

Maybe it's time for a new tune all round.