Tue, 12th Jun 2012
The sheer madness of the night before meant it was a slow start to the day. As the sun shone down on our base at the Malta Campsite, gradually the 100’s of fans began to depart for the centre of town. Everyone in green. Everyone with an air of optimism. Everyone slightly sunburnt! We Irish will never learn.
I had saved my Home jersey for this day. In fact, I made a decision before I left Leixlip, that I would only wear it on Match Days. It’s too important an item to wear regularly for fear of a rip, a stain or God forbid a smell of B.O!
Myself and the Laurels Lads, who were in uniform: Green Jerseys, white shorts and green socks, headed for the Square in Poznan. The lads made such an impression with their gear, that they kept on getting stopped by locals so they could get a photo with them! We finally arrived back to the scene from the night before. And if we thought it was busy then we were slightly mistaken. There was about 5 times more people. 3 out of the 4 corners of the square were pure Irish. The Croats took up a mere ¼. A feeling of excitement, a pure energy of anticipation ran through the place. It was infectious. Our first Euro match in 24 years. And everyone was here to make the most of it.
Italy and Spain played on TV’s in the bars and tents dotted around the square. Some sat and watched. Others stood and sang. Everyone was having a pint! Then the sun disappeared, the clouds covered the blue sky and it began to rain. With the weather like this and the amount of Irish about, it felt a bit like home…but a home where a beer was only €2.50!
Spain and Italy drew. Happy days. Time to head out to the stadium. The tram ride out was mental. People hanging out of the windows with their flags. Songs been sung as the Tram bounced up and down trying it’s best to stay on the tracks. Irish and Croats mixing. Having sing off’s. Sharing songs and stories of the heroes of re-known. We’d remember Poznan City, in this oh too rare a’time!
The walk from the tram to the stadium was brief. I don’t think we even stopped at a station. The Tram just gave up, the doors opened and with a huge cheer we all got out and headed left! We approached a crossroads and as we turned right. There she stood. The Municipal Stadium. It looked like something from War of the Worlds!
On the way up I bumped into a group of lads from Dublin. All dressed as Bosco! Another guy had a long blonde wig on him. When I asked who he was, he said, “Mick Wallace!” As I got closer to the stadium you could hear our boys singing their hearts out. Time to get to my seat and join in!
I sat beside a guy from the Liberties in Dublin. He’d been to Euro ’88 and Italia ’90. A veteran. I was in safe hands. Our seats were behind the goal to the left of the cameras. No matter where you sat in the stadium you had a great view. I don’t think I can do justice with words as to how incredible the atmosphere was. The noise was deafening and just like the Square in the centre of town, we took up ¾ of the Stadium.
The National Anthem is something I will never forget. Shivers down the spine stuff and one guy I spoke to told me he had tears in his eyes. I joined him…after the 3rd goal went it! The fans were immense throughout the game. When we scored there was a brief pause due to some MUPPET in the stadium with a whistle! We thought it had been disallowed until we realized it was not It was pandemonium! I won’t talk about their offside goal. Or the stonewall peno that wasn’t given.
At the end we didn’t leave. The Fields of Athenry rang around the stadium. Our boys on the pitch showed their gratitude and applauded their army. They looked embarrassed. Like they didn’t deserve the ovation we gave them. Maybe they didn’t. But we don’t get here very often lads. So we’re going to make the most of it. And remember this: We may have lost the match. But we destroyed them in the singsong!