herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fans party despite defeat

IRISH fans partied on regardless in Gdansk last night.

The result was devastating but that didn't stop more than 30,000 Irish celebrating into the small hours of this morning.

The green army were in high spirits as the evening started but even in the tragic aftermath, the fans flooded the bars and clubs around Gdansk.

Many thousand were forced to walk the 6km back from the stadium to central Gdansk because the public transport was so overcrowded.

Hordes still lined the streets as the daylight broke around 4.30am today.

Some fans even waited outside the Sheraton Hotel in Sopot to give Giovanni Trapattoni's squad a rousing cheer as they returned after the game.

The Herald understands that at one point yesterday the hotel's main bar ran completely out of beer.

However, a combination of the poor result and rain ensured that the euphoric scenes witnessed in Poznan earlier in the week were not repeated.

Singing

Local organisers told the Herald that the crowds were "extremely well behaved". "There was lots of singing and some very drunk people but the fans were no trouble," said one.

In a rain sodden Gdansk the travelling army toasted Trapattoni and the Irish squad who brought us to Euro 2012.

There was no hiding the disappointment that we are out of the tournament -- but what happened in the PGE Stadium last night will enter the sporting history books.

As Robbie Keane's side went down 4-0, the Spanish fans were silenced by a deafening chorus of The Fields of Athenry.

The police presence on the streets of Gdansk was low key compared to Poznan where the riot squad had protected Irish revellers in the hours after the Croatia game.

The Herald understands that police did help to close down a small number of premises last night for safety reasons as they felt they were too full.

However at the time of going to print there were no major incidents reported.

Our soccer team may have lost but, our fans triumphed.

Dream

Perhaps it was the past five years of austerity and adversity. Perhaps it was the 24-year wait for a European Championship. Or perhaps it was simply a nation of believers who realised the dream was over.

Whatever it was that stirred those scenes, they will be remembered forever.

The team looked shattered as they limped off the pitch.

Yet the supporters chanted, shouted and sang into the damp Gdansk night. The thousands of Polish spectators at the game took phone videos of the Irish fans' defiant singing.

There is not another country in the world that would have acted in the dignified manner that the Irish fans did last night.

They have now become one of the headline stories of the tournament across Europe.

Frank McManamon from Mayo told the Herald: "The last 10 minutes were something special. They will go down in the annals of Irish sporting history."

Shane Maguire from Naas added: "We have to try and save some face now against Italy.

"It's important to try get a result."

The remaining fans were today making the long journey back to Poznan where they have the weekend to recover before our final game against Italy.

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