Monday 22 January 2018

Welcome to Poznan: Irish arrive at Euro 2012 on planes, trains...and a unicycle

Irish fans at Dublin Airport
en route to Poland
Irish fans at Dublin Airport en route to Poland
Eamon Halpenny, Aongus Giggins, Cathal Halpenny, Stuart McDonnell and Padraig Lynch in Poznan
Poznan police
Kieran Hulsman hands the lost tickets to Ronan Davis for Damian Coughlan (in photo on the phone).
Claudine Keane arriving into Poznan

Fiach Kelly In Poznan

ONE pair travelled in a bling-bling campervan with a Playstation, plasma TV, customised tricolour leather seats, a thumping sound system and even a coffee machine fixed to the dashboard.

The other pair left two months ago, cycled across the continent in a modified unicycle, slept under the stars on reclining seats in army issue sleeping bags and lived off McDonald's chicken wraps, keeping to a €25 per day budget.

But all four reached their destination yesterday, a sun-drenched Poznan.

Retired Army man and renowned fundraiser Jimmy Mee, from Monaghan, left his home county on April 10, with his friend and navigator PJ Morgan from Clones, to fundraise for Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin.

"I was in it myself when I was small, they saved my life and I hope now I could save a few more children's lives," said Jimmy.

"We'd sleeping bags with us, we never stayed anywhere," a now bearded, weather-beaten but triumphant Jimmy said.

"It was the biggest thing we've aver done. Kept going the whole way, it was very hard but we enjoyed it."

They certainly don't do bling in Monaghan, and Jimmy and PJ learned a lot along the way.

Firstly, they're not too fond of the Germans (they'll have friends in Poland, so). Secondly, the French are okay but some of the 'hoors' charge you for the little sachets of take-away salt. They like the Polish (see disliking of Germans above) and how cheap Poland is.

"The best road they had was Germany. I had 300 miles of Irish road in Poland. We have raised €1,350 and we're looking for for more," added Jimmy. But even after that mammoth cycle, he's not staying around to enjoy Ireland's matches, and starts his trek home on Sunday.

"Rory of Celtic Links Ferries gave us hospitality and he asked us to be back in time. We had a very tight budget and we kept to that."

Around the corner, Dave Cosgrave, originally from Dun Laoghaire but living in London, and Liam Holmes from London were experiencing the other end of the luxury spectrum.

The two are staff at Fulham Football Club and are personal friends of a number of members of the Ireland team, who sponsored their trek across Europe in a pimped out ice-cream van.

"I said to the boys, would you sponsor us if we were to buy an ice-cream van and drive it across to Poznan and Gdansk for a laugh," said Dave.

"All the Irish players said yeah, we'll sponsor you 300 or 500 quid."

Fulham players Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnston also paid for the full pimp-out and Dave and Liam are hoping to show the squad the final product today. The intention is for players to use it as a break-away area down in Gdansk.

"They've been buzzing to see it. If they want to get out of the hotel for a minute, if they're allowed, they can have a coffee, play playstation, watch DVDs." Not bad for a shell of van bought on eBay for just over €550, but amazing what a €12,000 upgrade can do. It would certainly buy you a lot of chicken wraps -- and you wouldn't have to worry about free salt.

More Irish arrived through the roads, trains and airports, with captain Robbie Keane's wife Claudine, their son Robert and other family touching down on a Ryanair flight.

"I'm rooting for them 100pc like everyone else," said Claudine. "I'm a supporter as well. I think they're in good state at the moment, they're in camp mode."

She's not short of admirers and was treated to calls of "Claudine ya ride, yeh!" from Irish fans on the plane.

Whatever about the football, we certainly wouldn't win European charming championships.

Irish Independent

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