Lord of Gdansk: Fans won't share players' regrets

Eurosport Yahoo! supervising editor Seán Fay threw his professional hat out the window and travelled to Euro 2012 as an Irish supporter. After blogging throughout their campagin, he's now heading home.


It was a little better, I suppose - at least the team were in the match until the 90th minute - but let’s make no mistake, this European Championship was a disaster for Ireland on the pitch.

After scanning Twitter on my return to my hotel in Poznan after Ireland’s 2-0 defeat to Italy, I saw that many Irish fans were angry – angry with Trapattoni, angry with the players, angry even with the fans in the stadium.

- “Singing made sense on Thursday. Sounds planned now, forced. Shut up.”

These of course were tweets coming from people back in Ireland, there is nothing much you can really say in riposte other than ‘you had to have been there.’

It seems the post mortem was very much underway before the final whistle and some people seemed irked that we in the stadium were not yet ready to join in.

I saw our manager, who has won 10 league titles, described as ‘clueless;’ Ireland’s goalkeeper and most capped player dismissed as ‘finished’; and our main striker, who has scored more than double the amount of goals for Ireland than any other player, mocked as ‘rubbish.’

However, it is not like it has been chants of “Olé, olé, olé,” “The Fields of Athenry,” and head in the sand stuff 24/7 here in Poland.

We have been having these debates in between matches too. Maybe it is time for the old guard to go? Would Keane stick around as an impact sub? Does Trapattoni understand the modern game? Who could replace him if he went? Was qualifying good enough given the talent available? Are the players who Trap isn’t selecting really any good?

But on the day of the games are we not allowed to sing, to shout, to wear silly hats if we want to, and to put smiles on the faces of those we come across?

A couple of days ago, a column in the Sunday Independent, Ireland biggest selling newspaper, called the Irish fans behaviour at the tournament “a festival of eejitry.”

The self-loathing headline read: “The Fields of Athenry lie low beneath a river of cheap booze,” while of course Roy Keane’s comments about the fans’ “attitude” have been roundly debated and were responded to with chants of “f*** off Roy Keane, will sing when we want,” by the supporters on Monday.

However, all this ‘eejitry,’ suitably impressed the Poznan locals enough that they donned green in the thousands on Monday to support the Irish team. The city posted leaflets all around town thanking the Irish fans. Euro 2012 volunteers marched around the square singing Irish songs. Italy and Croatia have played two games here too but were afforded no such goodbye.

I saw others say the fans at the Euros don’t care about the League of Ireland back home; it seemed like a particularly pertinent point as just hours before the Italy game, a top division club - Monaghan United - said they had no option but to pull out of the league due to financial concerns.

But then I saw a bunch of depressed guys outside the ground with a quickly made flag that said ‘RIP Mons.’

“We know it looks crap,” one told me. “But all we could do was find some spray paint and show our respects. We’ll miss going to the games.”

I’m sure many in the ground count Manchester United, Liverpool or Celtic as their first team, but I also saw flags from Shamrock Rovers, Galway United, Sligo Rovers, in fact pretty much every single LOI club.

Others again were saying that the game in Ireland needs to change at the grassroots level, but again looking at the flags in the stands from junior clubs throughout the country, and it would not be a stretch to say that those changes will be made by people in the stadium in Poznan.

We may not have got angry, but we bloody well care about Irish football.

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At the end of the match against Italy, Gianluigi Buffon led a group of Italian players over to the Irish supporters and applauded their efforts. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli also complimented them in his post-match press conference, as did Spanish boss Vincent Del Bosque after the previous game.

Of course cynics will cry why do we need this validation and praise? Why do we feel we have to be the “best fans in the world?”

Well the truth is we don’t, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t nice all the same. The behaviour and impression the fans made in Poland is one of the few good things to have come out of these Championships from an Irish standpoint and something to be proud of.

This was a group made up of all different ages, from all different parts of the country and all different classes. It was mostly guys but with plenty of girls too.

As we depart home en masse I can assure you that you’ll be hard-pushed to find many with a bad word to say about Poland and fewer still that didn’t enjoy themselves.

When you consider the dross that was served on the pitch – that’s really saying something.

It cost a lot money, time, effort and dedication for 25,000 fans to come out here and support the team.

But while the players may return home with plenty of regrets about how they performed, the fans will have few.

However, now that the party is over, it is time for us all collectively to deal the hangover.

Where does Irish football go from here? That's now the big question that needs to be answered if we really want something to celebrate the next time we qualify.

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