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We'll punch above our weight in 2012: on and off the pitch

I swear if you looked closely enough at the barman in the Depeche Mode bar in Tallinn, you could see a single tear rolling down his cheek. There's no doubting the ingeniousness of dedicating a pub to the English electronic music giants but won't somebody think of the staff?

Imagine having to listen to Depeche Mode for every single second of your working life.

I wonder whether the barman was a fan when he applied for the position? Maybe he thought this would be his dream job, pulling a few pints and immersing himself in the music of his favourite band all night long, before he slowly came to the realisation that there's only so much synth pop that any man can take.

Depeche Mode have been churning out the hits for 30 years now, but it appears as though only one of their songs has made any real impression on the Irish football supporter and so we had our soundtrack for the trip, even if we were a bit sketchy on the lyrics. For most of us, it went along the lines of:

"When I'm with you baby, something, something, something.

"And I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough.

"I'll hum along to this bit, pretend I know the words.

"And I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough."

While the new patrons of the Depeche Mode bar grappled with the lyrics last Thursday night, another group of Irish fans was having a whale of a time in the nearby Bar With No Name.

It was there that John Delaney had put a couple of grand behind the bar. The FAI's chief executive was clearly unconcerned about the perception of the Association's top man currying favour with the supporters with his largesse on the same day that two members of the FAI's technical department were made redundant.

Delaney's appearance on the pitch at the end of the match was more than a little jarring too. That was a moment for the players and the players alone, not an administrator. As for the argument that Delaney is a fan and was merely acting as such, well I didn't see any other fans on the pitch throwing ties into the crowd. If the cities in Poland or Ukraine are half as amenable to the hosting of a football match as Tallinn is, we're in for a hell of a summer next year. Small and manageable, the Estonian capital provides inexpensive booze by the bucketful and is more than a little liberal when it comes to turning off the taps.

I don't know what the Estonian translation is for "Right folks, have you no homes to go to?" but I'm pretty confident I didn't hear it once over the two nights I was there. The people were friendly and generally unfazed by the sight of hundreds of green-clad visitors commandeering their pretty squares to play mass games of keepy-uppy. Wherever we travel, Irish fans like to think that the locals are as charmed by us as we are by them. We love nothing more than being told how great we are. After a piece we did recently on 'Off The Ball', about the Euro 96 playoff against Holland at Anfield, a listener texted in to describe a post-match scene where he and his countrymen had landed in a Liverpool pub packed with Holland fans.

The Dutch immediately stopped what they were doing so that they could stand and applaud the Irishmen who had sung so lustily from the Kop. It hadn't occurred to this listener that the Dutch fans were in pretty good form themselves, having just watched their brilliant young team tear Ireland to shreds, so the night wasn't only about Big Jack's last game and "the best fans in the world".

This isn't the day to be churlish, though. We're finally through to another major tournament. The scenes at the Aviva last night, as the players strolled around for their lap of honour, were wonderful.

We'll hope to punch above our weight at Euro 2012, on and off the pitch. Now, where exactly in Warsaw is their Depeche Mode bar?


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