Saturday, 16 June 2012
Euro 2012 - Day 9. The evening after the night before.
It's sunk in that we're heading home and realistically our hopes were unfounded and our expectations were probably overhyped. I never thought we'd ship 4 but outside of Germany there's not a team that will live with Spain in that form.
The day had started well with the sun shining and a spring in our step as we left the hotel and heading for a quick beer before getting the bus into Gdansk city. Had a funny moment when the bus arrived and a good natured mixture of Irish and Spanish fans all bailed on filling the bus only to be told to get off again as the wooden bridge into the beach are we were staying in is slightly the worse for wear and the driver didn't fancy the bus and everyone on in going for an unscheduled dip into the Baltic sea! So over the bridge we all filed to the bus stop across the islet where everyone barrelled on again and off we went! As soon as we started moving the chants started with each teams fans alternating the likes of Molloy Malone, Viva Espana, a team of Gary Breens, La Bamba etc! Great craic and great banter between the fans and then some locals started joining in with Polska chants and one old lad who fancied himself as the Polish Perry Como crooned a few tunes! John offered his seat to a local old lady and was rewarded with a few strawberries from a punnet she was carrying, it was that type of journey! However en route we'd noticed the storm clouds gathering which was the last thing we needed given the Spaniards complaints about the dry surface impacting on their passing game.
We duly arrived in the centre and made our way to the old town square where both sets of supporters were congregating. We'd just managed to blag a covered table in a cafe bar when the heavens opened. The only 2 days of constant rain and they both happen to be our game days. Not a good omen and not ideal for our attire either given the Irish males penchant for shorts and a t shirt once the mercury hits double figures! Oh well, at least I wasn't wearing flip flops like some! Unlike Sunday I had my own game face on as I'd no hangover having discovered the recuperating qualities of 9.5% Polish porter the previous night. If Guinness is good for you then this stuff must be great for you, right? :) Anyway, we hung our flag and settled down for some serious lubrication of the vocal chords in preparation for the game. Various friends and acquaintances dropped in from previous games and some new arrivals who'd missed the first match came in and the craic was good till the time came upon us to hit the ground.
On the advice of a couple of locals we took the train rather than the tram and got to the ground pretty quickly with the usual chants in the packed carriages adding to the building atmosphere. It was pretty clear on arrival that the organisation in Gdansk was a lot poorer than Poznan. The way into the stadium seemed to be a series of bottlenecks leading to big delays and a lot of pushing and shoving which wasn't ideal for the girls present in particular but we finally made the seats just as the anthems were starting. Little did we know what was about to unfold.....
A huge amount of disbelief had been expressed by Trap's decision to start Cox ahead of Walters but to his credit he started well to pull a save from Cassilas in the 2nd minute. Unfortunately that was as good as it got with Shay slow to react again as Torres, who couldn't even finish his dinner all season, chose his return to form to come against us. I think Shay could have got his hands up quicker and pushed it over but the shot had a lot of pace on. I still contend he's not fully fit as its normally a save he's make. From there on in we were chasing shadows the whole half but at least it was only one at half time. We did have a bit if comedy relief when we noticed Marty Morrissey standing behind us with a jacket on with MM embroidered on the sleeve! As if people wouldn't recognise that uniquely shaped head!
Anyway, 2nd half starts with Trap admitting his mistake by bringing Walters into the fray but déjà vu. For the 4th half in a row this team, who'd shipped only 3 goals in our previous 14 games, gives away another. A mistake from another stalwart in Dunne gives away possession, Shay punches a ball he'd normally catch and Silva mesmerises our defence. 2-0 and game over. All we were hoping by then was to avoid a rout but still they passed around us and we couldn't get a sniff. It was as good a display as I've ever witnessed in all my years watching football, they really are an incredible team. 2 relatively late goals bring the rout we feared but as the noise from the 15% or so of the attendance made up of Spanish fans gets louder our own defiance in the stands comes to the fore and the last 10 minutes of the game are played out to a spine tingling rendition of The Fields of Athenry. Fuck the begrudgers and those that say this was accepting mediocrity. We have a team where our best players are reaching the end and the rest are honest midtable pros from the Premier league and the Championship. We were playing a team made up from the 2 best teams in Spain and arguably Europe augmented by a couple of players from the English Champions and Champions League winners. Do people honestly think that a player such as Hoolahan who's had one season at the top level or rookies like McCarthy, Clark and Coleman, with all due respect to them would've made a blind bit of difference?? Even in 2002 there were at least 6 players with recent Champions League experience behind them. Zero this time out. Perspective is needed, I can't fault the effort out here, whatever about the application.
What happened with the fans was a reaction to the opposition celebrating and letting them know we were still there. Would people prefer we sat there in silence or worse again booed the team? Fuck that. We may be beaten. We'll never be bowed.