The last time the Leader spoke to John Deane, Joe Bernie and Michael McKeon at Euro 2012, Ireland had just been dealt a harsh reality check by Croatia. The 3-1 defeat was difficult to watch, but the friends kept their spirits high by partying and singing songs with the other Irish fans who made the journey. Now, on the phone from Poland following Spain’s crushing 4-0 victory over the Boys in Green, John says the Irish are still having fun, but the fans are wearier now.
“The early goal killed it for us again,” John says, sounding hoarse from a night of singing and chanting. “Our confidence before the game grew, thinking that we could get something from it, but maybe it was because of the few pints we’d drank! “We were disappointed by the result, but Spain proved they’re not the best team in the world for nothing.”
Once again, Giovanni Trapattoni’s team selection proves to be a contentious point with the lads. “The decision to play Cox was strange and a lot of people were disappointed with the performances of Keane, Duff and Whelan.” However, he think the likes of Given, Keane and Dunne have another campaign in them. Asked about who Ireland’s stand-out performer has been, the reply is instantaneous: “For me, Andrews has been the best Irish player so far.”
While the Irish display on the field may have been disappointing, the performance from the stands certainly wasn’t, with the Irish supporters once again making themselves heard for 90 minutes. “There was a lot more Irish than Spanish at the game – it could even have been 80/20 in our favour. The Spanish fans only took up a small section of the stadium, but even there you could see green jerseys dotted amongst them. The Irish fans singing ‘The Fields of Athenry’ for the last 20 minutes was amazing. The mood was dampened after the game but we still had fun. We were in the square in Gdansk and the fans were singing and drinking whiskey out of wellies and everything.”
Touching on the main topic of conversation at home in the aftermath of the game, the Leader asks the guys if they have read Roy Keane’s comments about the team and supporters. “I don’t agree with Roy Keane’s comments about the players and fans – it was very cynical,” John says. “Did he expect 35,000 of us to start booing the team because we were losing? If that had happened it would’ve been a disgrace.”
Putting the game to one side for a moment, what do the lads think of Gdansk in general? “We left Poznan on Tuesday and drove here. We had trouble with the sat-nav because a lot of the new motorways weren’t in it. It took 30 minutes of driving around Poznan just to get on the right road out of there! We arrived around 6pm and checked into the camp at Stogi. We had two caravans there and there was hot water and showers so it was a lot better than the other site. There was a lot of Irish, but also some Dutch, German, Spanish and English fans. We stayed total of five nights and then headed back to Poznan”
With football fever having swept across Ireland in recent weeks, a lot of fans have arrived in Poland without tickets, only to find themselves at the mercy of the touts. “We got talking to two Irish lads outside a bar in Gdansk who didn’t have any tickets. A while after, we bumped into a French guy who had two tickets for sale with a face value of €70 each. We pointed him towards the two lads and he spoke with him. They told us afterwards that he wanted €500. That’s what all the touts here are charging. We don’t know whether or not they actually bought the tickets in the end.”
Looking ahead to this evening’s encounter with the Italians, John is understandably cautious. “We don’t know what to expect for the Italy game. I’d like to see Long getting a game up front because he deserves it. I’d like to see Darron Gibson in the side, too. I can’t see Trap changing the line-up too much, though. Hopefully the team can get something from the last game. It’d be great to even get a score draw or something to lift us a bit because we’re just playing for pride now. Hopefully the shackles will come off.”