Last weekend John Deane, Joe Bernie, Michael McKeon and four of their friends hopped into their Ford Transit and joined thousands of other Irish supporters in making the long road trip to Poland to support the Boys in Green at Euro 2012. The Longford Leader caught up with John to discuss their experiences so far, the defeat to Croatia and the upcoming game against Spain.
John has barely slept a wink since Friday, but that’s hard to believe as he talks excitedly on the phone from Poznan. “When we got here, we didn’t sleep because there was a great buzz around the place. We walked around, got some food and took in the atmosphere,” he says. “It’s supposed to be an international camp site but 90 percent of the people here are Irish.”
But what about the journey to get there? “When we got to Rosslare we had time to deck out the van with some flags and signs. The Irish Ferries crew saw us and took photos and offered us a free meal for the return trip.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t all plain sailing. “It was a choppy crossing – we were all dying with sea sickness.”
The real endurance test, however, came once they had reached dry land. “When we arrived in Rosscoff we each took three-hour stints behind the wheel. We made sure we had it embedded into our heads to drive on the right! It took eight or nine hours to cross France.” Driving cross-country in France also proved to be expensive. “The French love their tolls – we must’ve spent €50 on the roads there.”
After entering Belgium, they just had enough time to stop and watch the first half of the Portugal v Germany game. “We watched it in a town called Namur. We had a lovely meal there but the town itself was fairly quiet.”
And then they moved on into Germany. “Once we hit the Autobahn we were able to do 80-85 miles per hour in the van and we made good time. We stopped off about two hours from Berlin to get some rest and for one of the other lads to take over driving. After that, the sat-nav guided us right into our campsite in Poznan, no problem.”
Once they’d sampled the atmosphere at the camp site, it was time to venture into the town centre and make their way to the stadium to see Ireland take on Croatia. “There was good craic in town before the match, and when we got to the stadium the crowd was roughly 60/40 Irish. The Irish fans were in full voice for 90 minutes. The result was disappointing and there was a sombre feeling this morning but still had good craic. We went to the town square after the game and the Irish fans were there singing untili all hours. We stayed there until around 5-6am.”
The conversation turns to Trappatoni and John questions some of the Italian tactician’s decisions. “I was surprised Cox was played on the wing. Walters is a dead cert to replace Doyle – he should be starting.” He’s also critical of the match officials: “The linesman didn’t give us a thing and the referee could’ve given us a few more decisions.”
Speaking about Sean St Ledger’s goal for Ireland, John said, “a fan at the far side of the stadium had a whistle, which caused some confusion. It blew during the free kick for Ireland’s goal and we thought it was going to be ruled out” - something the TV viewers at home can identify with.
With media reports circulating about hooligans targeting travelling fans, John says riot police were on patrol in town after the game. “There were a few skinheads hanging around but they seemed more focused on the police presence than the fans. There has been no malice at all from the Poles towards the Irish fans. We’ve had good craic with them. There are Polish fans here in the campsite chanting for Ireland and we’re there chanting for Poland – there’s been no trouble.”
Next up is the encounter against Spain in Gdansk. “We’re off in the morning. We check out at 12 o’clock and then we have a five-hour journey. Our campsite there is on the beach.” Time to work on those tans, then.
The bullish mood of the fans leading up to the tournament has been tempered somewhat by the 3-1 defeat. “We’re apprehensive about the Spain game now, following that result. We have no momentum going into it. If we had gotten a draw it would be a totally different story.”
As John signs off from the centre of Poznan, a loud roar can be heard in the background. “Right now we’re in the square and there’s Irish fans kicking a ball around. The stewards are trying to stop them but they’re not having much success!”