herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Anger and heartbreak but we'll keep singing

GO away, Roy Keane. We're here for a good time, not for a long time.

Fair enough, the team's performances have been dismal, but why wouldn't we sing? Why wouldn't we enjoy ourselves?

Thousands of non-prawn-sandwich-eating people have broken their personal banks to be here, so why would they sit in despair. Things could not have gone any worse for us, but who wants to be part of the 'Sing when you're winning' brigade?

That's not our style. Roy Keane once complained about the suits and prawn sandwich element at Old Trafford. Over the past week, he should have seen real, genuine football fans cheer and chant on a scale that has attracted massive international attention. Yet he's still not happy.

Perhaps he has a point that the team deserves to be chastised. But there will be time for post-mortems later.

The roadtrip back to Poznan yesterday was long and arduous. It's called the rocky road to Poland for a reason.

However the journey was shortened by a break to review a YouTube clip of those final minutes and an unstoppable chorus of The Fields of Athenry. It still makes the hair stand on the back of my neck.

Our fans simply are the best in the world.

At the same time, let there be no mistake. The fans on tour are not immune to the heartbreak of watching their team demolished by the world champions. Many are very angry that they have not got value for the money they spent coming here.

But the attitude of the hordes who boarded trains, buses and camper vans to Poznan yesterday is that we have to make the best of a bad situation.

The fans' efforts have made world news at a time when our country should be simply written off as a non-runner at the Euros.

The Daily Telegraph in Britain suggests that we "have brought so much jollity to this tournament, acting as counterweights to the niggardly dispatches detailing racism and hooliganism, homophobia and overpriced hotels".

New York's Daily News said that "unlike their team, Irish fans are a hit at Euros" and the popular Bleacher Report said that the supporters "deserve a trophy".

"The tournament can cheerily bid good riddance to Giovanni Trapattoni's players, who were meekly booted out after failing to earn a point from their first two games, yet their supporters' spirited backing has put every other nation to shame."

This is a lesson in turning a bad news story into a good one.

A few supporters have dropped off now, thinking better of their Credit Union balance, but by Monday afternoon there will again be more than 20,000 Irish in Poznan for our final game.

Let's hope we can go out with our heads held high against Trap's native Italy.

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