Tuesday 24 October 2017

Life's a beach for now, but Spanish test is looming

Fiach Kelly in Sopot

HAIRY backs, furry shoulders and a man buried in sand with a patio slab on top to make sure he won't escape can only mean one thing: the pale paddies were at the beach yesterday.

Irish fans based around Gdansk for tonight's game against Spain took advantage of the glorious weather to bare their bits in Sopot, the nearby seaside resort town where the Irish team is staying.

The Irish team's WAGs, including captain Robbie Keane's wife Claudine, also visited the beach but they were certainly not among the hairy-back brigade.

They mostly hung around the posh sun loungers and players Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Stephen Ward made sandcastles with their kids.

In less luxury was Darragh Agnew (26), from Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, buried in the sand by friends Mark O'Connor, Ross Zambra, Peter McGee, Darragh Kirk, Richie O'Farrell and Kevin Brophy.

"We got started digging a hole and he was the nearest to us so we threw the sand over him," said a chuffed Mark O'Connor. "It took us about 40 to 45 minutes. Irish people just love coming to beaches and digging holes, it's what we do."

Just to complete the job, they plonked a nearby patio slab on top to make sure there was no way out. But Darragh didn't find it all bad.

"This hole is better than the campsite," the human dune piped up.

There was a lazy feel to the day as fans wandered through the town and some headed to a Snow Patrol concert in Gdansk last night.

Given the heat, Bob Durcan from Westport decided to strip down to his shamrock pants -- although he did keep a t-shirt and a fake beard on. Bob is the son of John Durcan, who goes to every Mayo GAA match dressed as St Patrick.

"You've got one up on him now," said his friend Gary Brennan. "You're going global."

Some found yesterday's heat too much, and fell asleep on the beach.

"He's not with me," said James Greenhill from Skibbereen, Co Cork, observing one such specimen. "He just arrived a few minutes ago."

With the game against Spain looming, there was much talk about tickets. The Spanish game has long been seen as the toughest for tickets.

The much-cursed UEFA ticket portal website had worked for those who had the stamina to refresh the webpage once a second for seemingly hours on end.


"We're very lucky," said Karl Tipping (34), who picked up his tickets yesterday with brother Derek and friends Dermot Smith (31) and Trevor Freeman (34), all from Dublin.

"From the minute we qualified it was all about the tickets but we assumed we'd be okay because we're season ticket holders at home but that didn't work out. Thank god the FAI did in the end look after us."

Although many fans are staying confident the team can get a result against the reigning world and European champions tonight, Karl was slightly more downbeat, perhaps affected by Spanish fans telling him Ireland will lose by four or five.

"We'll probably be beaten about 2-0, an honourable defeat. But the Spanish are extremely confident. We could be a banana skin for them."

Irish Independent

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