BOHEMIANS BOY, CIARAN MURRAY, REPORTS BACK FROM POLAND ON THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF SUPPORTING THE BOYS IN GREEN WHEN THE DOMESTIC LEAGUE IS DYING ON IT’S ARSE.
Berlin. Two days before the Euros kick off, three match tickets apiece and buses to Poznan and Gdansk sorted. Thirty thousand lunatics have made their way to mainland Europe for Ireland’s first major tournament in ten years and the Credit Unions have taken a battering.
Poznan. Madness. Debauchery abounds and it’s all good-natured. The Poles learn the words to “A Team of Gary Breens,” presuming he’s a great hero to have his own song. In return, the Irish drink it dry before piling onto trams to the stadium for a reality check and a crushing 3-1 defeat.
Gdansk. Optimism… waining. The main square is rammed; Spanish, Irish and Polish are carting around cases of piss-warm beer, leprechaun and matadors vying for dominance. The confident Spanish are busy flogging their tickets for face value, opting to stay in the fan zone rather than make the trek to the game. Again, an early goal conceded and again, completely outplayed on the pitch. Schooled; One nil. Two nil. Three nil. Four. The singing began in earnest. Quietly at first, building to a spine tingling pinnacle.
For all the craic in Gdansk, it grated to see Delaney’s antics given what was happening on the pitch and what was going on off it. Word of Monaghan United’s collapse beginning to trickle through. This meant little to anyone outside League of Ireland circles, but within it it came as a hammer blow. Monaghan being the seventh Irish clubs to go out of business in six years and a rumour that Dundalk wouldn’t be far behind.
At home there was vitriol for Delaney, while the League of Ireland was in crisis, the President of the FAI was on another jolly, pissed up and making a show of himself in Sopot. Criticism too was aimed at the travelling support, some lay the blame for the League’s woes at the feet of the thousands going to watch Ireland abroad but won’t pay a tenner to see their local team.
Poznan again. Our small group, with representation from Bohemians, St. Patrick’s, Shamrock Rovers and Cork City, contemplated an anti-Delaney banner for the game but Delaney’s pint-buying antics had endeared him to the travelling crowd so we decided against it. Unburdened now by any false hope of qualification, Poznan looked set to be a party; steam to be blown off and Zlotys to be spent. Not too bad this time, Ireland’s best performance, a two nil loss. The city walls still echoed “You’ll never beat the Irish,” ironic from some quarters, moronic from others. The performances on the pitch had been atrocious, but it’s the antics off the pitch that will be remembered.
For while the fans in green drank their recession blues away, Delaney, with the second largest salary of all FA presidents at the Euros has no excuse. His attempt to seek vindication for the embarrassing Sopot Square video? “I’m entitled to have time off, the same as everyone else”. He should have been worrying about the shambolic performances on the pitch, the two year contract gifted to a manager well past his sell-by-date, and the state of the League back home. The round of games on Friday 22nd June saw anti-FAI banners from Boh’s, St. Pat’s and Drogheda plus Shelbourne fans threatened with fines for anti- Delaney chants.
Fans’ groups in Ireland are collaborating. Consensus is that the FAI lads’ club needs to be broken up. Things need to change in domestic football. Irish football’s problems can’t be sung away; if only they could.