The long, long road home

Last week when we checked in with the Longford lads on the eve of the Spanish game in Gdansk they were cautiously optimistic of advancing to the knock-out stages of EURO 2012.

Last week when we checked in with the Longford lads on the eve of the Spanish game in Gdansk they were cautiously optimistic of advancing to the knock-out stages of EURO 2012.

Some dreams quickly quickly turn to nightmares and it only took four minutes for Irish fans to descend the first rung of the ladder to sporting hell when Torres scored Spain’s first in a four goal rout.

Despite the loss, Irish fans in the stadium did their best impression of Fr Fintan Fay aka the Spinmaster from Fr Ted, playing the same song over-and-over for the final twenty minutes (to Roy Keane’s ire). Albeit, The Fields of Athenry has slightly more prestige than Ghost Town by the Specials in that iconic Fr Ted episode.

“We were disappointed by the result, but Spain proved they’re not the best team in the world for nothing,” John Deane told the Leader, the morning after the night before.

“The mood was dampened after the game but we still had fun. We were in the square in the Gdansk and the fans were singing and drinking whiskey out of wellies and everything.”

The following morning, the group went for a swim in the icy waters of the Baltic sea. With the team already out, and with Italy still to play, no one would have held it against them if they decided to swim home.But they stuck it out, huddled into the Ford Transit and headed back to Poznan for the final game against Italy – this time having better luck with the sat-nav having got lost on the way up.

Again, the Irish completely outnumbered the Italians inside and outside the stadium. “Despite losing 2-0, the banter and atmosphere was still electric but it was decreasing all the time,” John told us as he loaded up the van for the long journey home. He had pulled the short straw and was first up to drive.

Although Poland is set to become the old-ancient-camper-van burial ground as some fans opt to scrap their vans and fly home, the lads decided against gifting their wheels to the Polish nation.

“We’ve no reason to get rid of it, we’d lose too much,” John said. And at the end as they race towards the German border and back to reality was it all worth it?

“Absolutely, absolutely,” John said emphatically. “It was incredible to drive all the way here and experience it. It would have been much better had we actually won a game but still it was certainly worth it.”

Roll on Brazil...