Rescue mission is just the ticket for lucky fan
CHECKLIST for Poznan. Passport? Yes. Wallet? Yes. Match tickets? Well, sort of.
By the time Damian Coughlan (23) realised he'd lost his tickets to all three of Ireland's 2012 group games, it seemed too late.
Sitting in a Polish coffee shop yesterday afternoon, he suddenly realised he no longer had them -- and a sinking feeling set in.
Back in Ireland, however, his family, together with the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), airport police and the media, were mounting a finely tuned operation to reunite him with the tickets and get him to the game.
But he didn't know that.
"I looked in my bag but they weren't there. I panicked," the shopkeeper from Knocklyon in Dublin told the Irish Independent.
"I had a few drinks last night (Thursday) and I went to the airport this morning and got out my boarding pass in a shop but I left the tickets behind at the till."
What happened next was a co-ordinated mission of military proportions -- this Green Army footsoldier would not be left behind.
Robert O'Neill (21), the heroic shop assistant at Champion Sports, Airside, where Damian had left the tickets, discovered them and rushed to airport police.
Once there, officer Enda O'Brien scrambled the emergency lost ticket response, dashing to each airline gate in an effort to find the hapless owner.
The problem was the tickets were in Damian's father Oliver's name and Damian unwittingly boarded his flight without them.
Later though, the story of the mystery tickets broke on the lunchtime news and exploded on Twitter.
Noticing the excitement, a friend of Damian's mother, Mary, rang her to ask if Oliver was in Poland.
She said no -- but shortly after she realised the tickets were, in fact, her son's and contacted the DAA to explain the fiasco.
En route to Poznan, and about 1,500km away, a heartbroken Damian finally heard the good news.
"My brother rang me and said I was on the news, that I had left my tickets behind," he said. "I am bloody delighted."
The tickets were safely collected from airport police by a gang of his friends following behind.
They were due to be safely reunited at a Poznan apartment at about 9pm last night.
"He was panicking all over the place but he has a track record of being a bit dozy," joked his pal Sean Jennings (24).
Now no matter who scores for Ireland in Euro 2012, Damian will have only one hero this summer. "Tell the fella at Champion Sports who found them that I owe him a few drinks," he said last night.
Tickets or not, about 20,000 Irish fans are expected to travel to Poland and many of them streamed through Dublin Airport yesterday. "If it was on another planet we would follow them," said 12-year-old Kane Phillips from Roscommon.
For Pat Hayes (66), from Arklow, Co Wicklow, it's a family affair, travelling with sons Paul (40), Graham (37) and Padraig (28).
"We will beat Spain 1-0," announced Pat without a flinch.
"We will get to the quarter-final, and if we get that far we will go all the way."