Singing green army leave as legends
THE only thing cheering Irish fans yesterday was their own hoarse throats.
The team had been beaten 4-0, the Euro 2012 dream ending with a whimper on the pitch but a roar from the stands.
The 10-minute rendition of the 'Fields of Athenry' as Spain saw out their rout of Ireland has already gone down in legend. It was the only solace fans could take yesterday and the only thing that will sustain them until the final game against Italy on Monday in Poznan.
Some couldn't leave Gdansk quickly enough.
There was standing room only on the trains back to Poznan, the campervans began to roll and every rental car in Gdansk was taken.
The mayor of Gdansk is to nominate Irish fans for a UEFA fair play award for their singing, scant consolation for seeing their team go down to two heavy defeats.
"Spain are the best team in the world, we have the best fans in the world," said Leon Gallagher from Bray, kicking a football around a filling station on the Gdansk-Poznan road with Fergal O'Brien, 13-year-old Tomas Geraghty and Cormac Doyle.
Roy Keane's television comments that the Irish team and supporters needed to change their mentality and "not just go along for the sing-song every now and again" caused a mixed reaction. "I don't think he was far off but it's a bit too early to be saying it," said Mr Gallagher.
"The supporters just cheered them on anyway, it was brilliant," said Davy Cusack (34) from Castlebar, Co Mayo in Gdansk Airport yesterday, waiting on a flight home with his brother Noel.
Jimmy Dwane, from Ballymun, Dublin, has been on 31 away trips supporting the Irish soccer team, and said the singing at the end of the match was on a par with anything he'd ever seen.
"The singing before the end of the game was tears in the eyes stuff," he said.
He was taking a train to Torun yesterday with his brothers Brian and Joey, as well as friends Eamon Hanley and Terry Neary, all from Ballymun.
"They got us here, that's the main thing," added Mr Dwane. "Can we knock them? I don't think we can because they got us here. What you get after that? But we need Long to start games now, Walters to start games. Duff, Keane, we'd never knock them but it is time to move on."
Legendary supporter Davy Keogh was one of a party of over 50 travelling together. Mr Keogh (51) from the Liberties, Dublin, has been following the boys in green for 40 years, but said he'd never been as proud of Irish fans as he was in the last 10 minutes on Thursday night.
Brian Arkins from Castleknock, Dublin, said the poor performances were particularly disheartening for younger fans at their first tournament.
"Every other tournament, we always had a moment. Euro '88, Italia '90, USA '94 and in Japan, we always got something and kept it going."
Not so Euro 2012. Italy on Monday beckons, and perhaps a chance to make some small amends.