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Joined 03 Feb 2005 Total club posts 1260 Daily Average 0.343 Total FM posts 1730 Daily Average 0.470
These were the words I spoke to my friend, Maurice, as we waited to board the 7.00 am flight to Dusseldorf on Tuesday, October 14 2014. Three hours earlier, I had stumbled out of bed, put on the green jersey and scarf and headed off to the Long Term Red car park in Dublin Airport to meet Maurice who was travelling from Portmarnock. Even though I had paid in advance, the barrier didn’t work. Just what you want at 5.15 in the morning. Maurice had already checked in, getting himself the aisle seat as usual but as agreed, we met in the restaurant. As we sat eating our lukewarm full Irish in Terminal 2, I asked him the question which had struck me at the mal-functioning barrier at the crack of dawn: “What are we doing here?” He seemed a bit taken aback. I asked the question because we were going to play the World Champions in their own back yard; their players were better than ours; we traditionally never beat these teams away from home and we would more than likely be beaten (the odds on an Irish win were 14/1 and not very generous at that).
I was asking this question of someone who takes defeat worse than most. I remember he and some other football friends gathered in my house to watch the Israel game 7 or 8 years ago and my wife, as usual on such occasions, had prepared a lavish banquet “for the boys” (as she calls them) for after the match. Unfortunately, Israel scored a very late equaliser. We were stunned but eventually with heads drooped we walked to the table and sat down to eat. A few glasses of wine and mouthfuls of home cooking later, spirits began to lift slowly except for Maurice. Having stared silently at the food for 8 minutes, he pushed away his plate and said: “Sorry Deirdre (that’s my wife, not me), I can’t do this” and left the house without another word. Some years later I had to endure the same silence, but this time for 24 hours, following the defeat by Croatia in Poznan in 2012. Mind you, he still managed to grab the aisle seat on the way home.
But back to Dublin Airport, and having pursued the very large and greasy mushroom around my plate, I waited for his answer. Nothing profound came. All I got was a shrug of the shoulders and a comment that he was off to WH Smiths to buy the papers. I eventually ate the mushroom against my better judgement (who knows when we would next eat) and followed him.
The plane was on a regular flight and green among the passengers was scarce. One German asked me, decked up in Irish jersey and scarf as I was, “Are you going to the game?” Upon receipt of an affirmative response, I was told we would lose. My innermost thought I shall not share but politely replied with “You’re probably correct but who knows”. He walked off with an air of superiority that only someone in a €500 suit and patent leather shoes can have over someone wearing the full football regalia and jeans.
The hotel was literally beside the ground but out in the sticks so we headed in to Gelsenkirchen. Not much was happening there either, unless you’re an aficionado of smoke spewing chimneys, but we did find a German pub playing Irish music and a few supporters had gathered inside. A German camera crew arrived. They promised to buy us all jaeger bombs if we sang “Come on you boys in Green” which we did and we were duly videoed (I saw myself later on German TV but “luckily” I had my back to the camera). Maurice consumed a wiener schnitzel and I ate his chips. The rest of our group (8 were coming via Frankfurt/Essen) said they’d see us at 1,2,3,4 (it became a movable feast) so we gave up waiting for them and headed back to the hotel to soak up the atmosphere, where they eventually arrived at 7.
The ground beckoned and with the usual knot in the stomach, myself and Maurice made our way to our appointed seats. The others arrived later because just one more pint had to be imbibed. We had got our tickets through separate sources so Maurice and I were not seated together. In any event he prefers to endure the agony alone.
Is there a better feeling than being in a foreign stadium surrounded by your compatriots? For me It is the only occasion when I really becomes aware of my national identity, enclosed within a sea of people who hope I’ll be disconsolate in 90 minutes time. I had been to Gelsenkirchen in 1988 and on that occasion we were a green dot in a sea of orange. This time it was 50,000 white shirts but their fans were mostly of the seat hugging variety, unlike the fanatical Dutch of 26 years ago. Our anthem as ever was belted out with great gusto, even if the Panzer Grenadier version was a tad too slow, and we saw some of our group on the big screen. God how I love singing Amhran na bhFiann in a foreign field.
And the game? We just sang, supported and prayed, although one of my compatriots insisted on casting aspersions on the lineage of most of the German players, and on the referee of course. A shot hit the crossbar, a missed header, good saves…the onslaught continued with no time to gather breath. We showed little in attack. The mushroom started to repeat on me. I looked at some of the people around me. A bewildered German sat on his hands, explaining that he had bought his ticket on the black market. A middle-aged Irishwoman wearing a red outfit with no green sat silently throughout the game even though we all stood in front of her. Her partner, who was Irish, had obviously brought her along to see what a football game looked like. I didn't think she’d be back.
The inevitable happened. Germany scored. Music blared from the public address system. The seat hugging contingent actually got to their feet (for 10 seconds) until they returned to their seats content that the job had been done. Then they made their big mistake. They started a wave. They were bored. The little pixie heads, the ones who had almost destroyed the Euro, were finished. They needed other entertainment. The last time I saw the Germans start a wave was in 1988 in Hannover and we all know what happened next – well, for those who don’t, Ronnie Whelan bicycle kicked one in to the roof of the net. Irish substitutes came on. The wave communicated itself (if a wave can do such a thing) to the German players. They became careless and even gave the ball away on occasions. We attacked once or twice. We almost scored but the clock ticked on to the 4th minute of injury time (ok, it was a digital clock which didn't tick and it had stopped on the 90th minute but you know what I mean) then…….delirium, pandemonium, hysteria, ecstasy; whatever word or words I use won’t do it justice. People jumped, fell, collapsed, hugged and dived – hats, scarves, pints, pizzas, coats, shirts and legs, all went in the air. I may have seen a pair of panties but that might be down to hallucination but it was no dream. Ireland through John O’Shea, playing in his 100th game had scored against the World Champions in Germany with the last kick of the game. There was no whistle, no linesman’s flag but there was a 17 stone man lying on top of me, embracing me. Who he was I have no idea. I think he came tumbling over from two rows behind. I didn't care. I embraced him back.
The dust settled. The whistle blew. More pandemonium. I prepared myself for the large man but he was scrambling back to his seat to embrace his friends this time. We had scored and drawn the game. I looked around. Even the demur woman in red who had sat throughout the game was on her feet singing. There was no further wave among the German fans. It was all unreal.
Eventually, Maurice came up from where he was seated. Tears were shed. He smiled and I knew what he was going to say and he didn’t disappoint me. “Do you remember that question you asked me in Dublin?” Nothing more needed to be said. 17 October 2014 15:23 Started on 'The ROI Green Room' forum
On wards and upwards...I hope. 05 September 2014 14:13 Started on 'The ROI Green Room' forum
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Hopefully Wilson will play which will give us a fairly solid back four. In the away game we showed we can match if not better the Swedes but our home form...hmmmmmm.
Fingers crossed. 03 September 2013 11:20 Started on 'The ROI Green Room' forum
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