Green Army bows out of Euro 2012 with heads held high
IRELAND’S green army walked from the Stadion Miejski in Poznan heads high despite spirits going through the grinder the last ten days.
And cometh the hour, cometh a few thousand Polish fans to lend much needed moral support to the out, but not down, contingent from home.
Mary and Christine Forsyth, from Sallynoggin in Dublin, summed up the Euro2012 attitude.
"We've had better results but we'd a great time. We got here and it took a long time so just enjoy what we have, or had," she said.
Christine Forsyth, married to a brother of Mary's husband, was planning a return trip, albeit more relaxing.
"I'll come back again, definitely, but it'll be for a holiday, there'll be less drink and a bit more of the cultural side," she said.
The pre-match atmosphere was muted to the point of being sedated but cue the anthems and the fans were in full voice again, with a Polish back up.
Large sections of the stands were bedecked in the Italians' colours - not thanks to a Roman invasion but more a mix of the green of Ireland and the red and white of the hosts.
And the latest chant adopted was something of an indignant dedication: "F*** you Roy Keane. We'll sing when we want."
Polska Bialoczerwoni, Poland the Red and Whites to the uninitiated, also got an airing at the start of the second half.
The 44,000 seater was not sold out. And although squads of touts attempted to flog over the odds tickets the desire to fork out for the nothing game was not there among the Irish.
Ireland - in white and black armbands to mark the 18th anniversary of the Loughinisland massacre - managed to avoid the early goal. At the end however the table read nil points and nine goals conceded.
The only sour note on the night was the Turkish referee's performance and Keith Andrews' temper after being shown red.
The match ended with a juxtaposition of Italians celebrating qualification as the Fields of Athenry thundered round the ground and the Ireland squad did a lap of honour.
An Irish tricolour flag was laid out on the pitch by officials - "Thank-you. Best supporters in the world" it read.
A few hundred supporters opted to soak what was left of the sun and beer in the Stary Rynek square in Poznan.
Brian Kenny, 48, from Malahide, Co Dublin urged fellow supporters not to be downbeat.
"I think either way we are punching above our weight," he said.
"We would have a liked a few results over here but you have to realise that in one of those games we were playing the word champions, Spain are world class," he said.
"But don't mind that, we've had a ball over here. I know the lads tried their best. We can't be too despondent."
His friend James Lyons was less concerned with footballing matters and could not speak highly enough of the locals, adding: "I feel in love about a million times sitting here looking around me."
The game was played in humid conditions with many a red head after a days drinking in the old Stary Rynek square where temperatures topped 34 degrees Celsius.
We'd already been told the game was a foregone conclusion even though the supposedly psychic goat was not quite up to his billing.
Less hesitant than Paul the Octopus, the animal was offered either a pizza or a potato as part of the elaborate prediction - no prizes for guessing the outcome.
Earlier in the day a flash mob hit Stary Rynek to pay a local tribute to the Irish fans.
Michal Heichel, a volunteer around the Poznan Fanzone, came up with the idea last week.
"We thought there'd be 50 or so people and there's ended up more than 1,000," he said.
"I think that Irish people all show how to have fun, never mind the losing or winning the competition. We just wanted to say the Irish fans are really great guys and we love you."
Sixty-eight volunteers were joined by more than 1,000 local people and football fans and then surrounded by hundreds of Irish fans.
Hundreds of flyers printed by leading newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and handed out to Irish fans, said: "We too had a very hard past, we are also romantic and emotional people. This is something our nations have in common."
Anna Hajdrych, one of the organisers, added: "We were having a really great time with the Irish people, they are drinking and having fun and the city has been bustling with life. They will be going home soon so we wanted to say thank-you. They showed us how to have fun no matter what."