The Euro 2012 experience has been a dismal one for Ireland, as Trapattoni’s men matched an unenviable record of three losses in the group stages - something that has only happened on three previous occasions in the competition. The one shining light has been the atmosphere created by the Irish fans, who kept on singing and voicing their support for the Boys in Green in the face of defeat. In their final phone call, the Leader’s Van to Poznan crew reflect on the final game against Italy and the last party in Poznan that followed.
The trip is obviously taking its toll as a tired John Deane mumbles a sleepy “hello” when the Leader calls to check on their progress. “We’re in Berlin,” he says. “We left Poznan this morning and arrived at the hostel here about an hour ago.” However, with a long way drive across Europe, there’ll be no time for sightseeing. “We’re just kipping here for the night, really, but we’ll get some food and drink while we’re here. We won’t be going too mental because we have ground to make up. We’re not even sure where we’ll be staying tomorrow night - we’ll see how far we can get.”
Looking back on Ireland’s final game at Euro 2012, John believes the team salvaged some dignity despite losing 2-0. “From an Irish point of view, we played our best game. There were better performances all round. In the end, though, the Italians were too much and when Balotelli came on he looked by far the best player on the pitch.”
Once again, the fans turned out in force to cheer on Trap’s Army. “All the empty seats were in the Italian section. There was only about 5,000 of them there,” John says. “There was a large Polish contingent at the game, though, and they all seemed to be backing Ireland.” Proceedings on the field didn’t dampen Irish spirits in the stands, with the supporters ‘doing the Poznan’ even after the team went behind, and ‘The Fields of Athenry’ once again drowned out the opposition’s chanting. It was something that drew praise from the Italians: “after the game the Italian squad came towards the stands and applauded the Irish fans. Afterwards, we met some Italians in town and they said ‘you guys are the best fans in the world.’”
Although the atmosphere after the game was more subdued than previously, the supporters still made the most of the night, after locals put up posters inviting Ireland fans to have one last party before departing. “We headed back into the city centre afterwards and there was still plenty of Irish about. Some of us ended up staying out until 6am.”
Now that the post mortem of Ireland’s poor showing at Euro 2012 is underway, the Leader asks John if Trapattoni is still the right man to lead Ireland. “I’d have no problem with Trapattoni staying,” he answers, “as long as he starts bringing in players like Coleman, McCarthy and Gibson. After all, he got us here in the first place. As long as we get to the big tournaments I think the fans will be happy”.
Before signing-off, John hints that he’s glad to be on the way home. “I’m pretty tired now. There’s been random eating habits, lots of drink and no sleep. It’s taking it’s toll now. Besides, we have to be back in work on Monday!”