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Friday 22 September 2017

Game of two halves for van and fans

Fiach Kelly in Poznan

IT'S a mongrel motor Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear crew would be proud of.

Get one 28-year-old camper van, take an angle grinder to it and chop the rusty half off.

Take another van, just a few years old, and get the angle grinder to work on that too.

Put the two halves together, deck it out in Ireland stickers and hit the road for Poznan.

After such a strange birth, you could forgive the mobile home transporting a group of friends from Allenwood, Co Kildare, to the Euros if it clapped out before it made the ferry.

But not only did it reach Poznan, it was the first camper van to arrive yesterday, leading the convoy that will hit the Polish city this weekend.

And minutes after their van hitched up at the Lake Malta campsite, David Coyle (37), Gary Doyle (27), Mark Fetherston (23) and Tim Kielty (48) sat back in the sun and reflected on a job well done.

David, the evil genius of this particular piece, explained the method to his madness.

"I had an old camper, a 1984 Renault Master but she was a bit rotten. The front of her was rotten so we bought a 2004 Vauxhall Movano for €1,500 and we cut the back off it with angle grinders," he explained as the rest of his group erupted in laughter.

"And then we reversed the chassis underneath that, sat it down, bolted her up and welded her up and that's her. She passed the DOE and all, 100pc. There was no way I was travelling in the old one."

The flashy exterior with "Claddagh", "Fighting Irish" and "Allenwood on Tour" stickers certainly isn't matched inside.

Cooker

The four all sleep in the back, with a greasy old cooker and a fridge that's seen better days, conditions more like Father Ted's infamous caravan than a palace on wheels.

"We left Ireland on Irish Ferries and we landed in Cherbourg in France," Mark said. "There was a group of Sligo lads on the ferry too and there was seven of them in a camper smaller than ours.

"We left them in France and then we bumped into them in a petrol station in Belgium. We stopped in Rotterdam one night and then we stayed outside of Berlin another and then arrived here now today. We're getting on grand, we pull into places where there's showers and all that."

With the other main fan park not open until this morning, Lake Malta saw the first of the action and Joe Hennessy (26) from Cashel, Co Tipperary, pulled in his rental van just minutes after the Allenwood crew yesterday afternoon.

Along with his brother Tom (35), Brian (31) and Patrick (36) O'Grady, another pair of brothers from Cashel, and Fermanagh man Peter Gallagher (27), he was glad to finally reach Poznan after a long journey.

"We landed in Frankfurt quite early yesterday," said Joe, "We were in Berlin last night and struggled to find somewhere to stay so we ended up in a McDonald's car park.

"We left that early this morning and arrived here now."

They joined Croatian fans also camping before Sunday's game, and crowds in Poznan city centre swelled yesterday as Croatian and Spanish fans joined the Boys in Green who arrived earlier in the week.

David and his pals just have to make it around Poland for the next two weeks and then home in one piece. That'll be the mongrel machine's greatest test.

Irish Independent

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