THE heartbroken family of tragic fan James Nolan were preparing today to bring him on his final journey home to Ireland.
His uncle Pat and brother Andrew were completing necessary paperwork this morning in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz so that his remains could be released by the authorities.
A post-mortem examination revealed the 21-year-old student from Blessington, Co Wicklow drowned after he slipped into a river in the city after a night out with his friends during the Euro 2012 tournament.
His brother-in-law, Gareth Dudley, who travelled with family members to Bydgoszcz, told the Herald early today: "We're hoping to bring James home tonight. It's not absolutely certain yet, but it's looking very, very good that we'll be able to fly back tonight."
The people of Bydgoszcz have rallied to support the Nolan family in recent days. Today, Irish tricolours, some with black ribbons, were flying in the city centre.
It was believed the mayor of Bydgoszcz had not yet received a reply from the UEFA football authorities to his request for a minute's silence before one of the remaining Euro 2012 games.
"Let us pay tribute to the Irish, the best supporters of the tournament, and let it be a day of solidarity with those who are the most affected," mayor Rafal Bruski said.
Large numbers of the city's residents had gathered along the banks of the Brda yesterday in an outpouring of sympathy. Andrew and Pat Nolan, who visited the spot on the riverbank where James's body was recovered, saw for themselves the candles and tributes left by Polish people.
Pat Nolan, his uncle, said: "We can take comfort in the fact that we are bringing James home to his family so we can begin the process of trying to bring this nightmare to an end."
James was last seen in the early hours of Sunday morning. CCTV footage showed him turning down a poorly lit area by the Brda.
"What started out as the trip of a lifetime has sadly ended with the loss of James's life," Pat Nolan said.
Mr Nolan described his nephew as a "very sensible young man".
"He did the things any 21-year-old would do. He enjoyed life, he played soccer, he went out and socialised with his friends. He drank occasionally with his friends, too.
"He was happy-go-lucky, always looked on the bright side of life, the life and soul of the party, always had this infamous cheeky grin on his face. Never got in trouble, never caused offence to anyone."