Ireland fans in festive spirit before Spain clash
Hordes of green-clad Ireland fans are refusing to let their
team’s perilous position at the European Championship dampen the
festive atmosphere ahead of its clash with Spain.
Ireland needs at least a point from Thursday’s Group C match
against the defending champion to avoid an early elimination. But
the team won’t be short of support, with several thousand fans
ready to deck Gdansk’s PGE Arena in green, white and orange.
”We have just got to pray for a miracle – loaves and wine,”
said Joanna Faughnan, a fan from Dublin who bought tickets for all
three group games. ”Ireland always does well when people think we
are down and out.”
Having qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 10
years, Irish fans are making the most of the opportunity to
Thousands of fans poured into Poznan for the opening match and
even a 3-1 defeat against Croatia failed to puncture the festive
”It was incredible,” Faughnan said. ”The atmosphere was
absolutely electric. Even after the final whistle the fans stayed
and sang their hearts out.”
Most observers expect Spain to steamroller Ireland. The reigning
world and European champion has won 14 of its last 15 competitive
fixtures and is bidding for an unprecedented third straight major
international title. It will also be looking for points after being
held to a 1-1 draw by Italy in its opener.
Still, Ireland only lost to Spain at the 2002 World Cup on
penalties after forcing a 1-1 draw and there is a feeling among
Irish fans that a courageous rearguard action could frustrate their
”I genuinely believe we will manage a draw,” said Fionn Mac
Aodhagain, from Rathcoole. ”Obviously that’s being very
optimistic, but we have to believe. This time the luck of the Irish
will be on our side.”
Spain’s players complained about the pitch in Gdansk being too
dry during their previous match, a 1-1 draw with Italy.
”That won’t bother the Irish,” said Sean McCarthy, a fan from
Westmeath. ”We just kick it up in the air, anyway.”
Despite a few arrests following scuffles in Poznan, Ireland’s
fans are generally managing to mix the alcohol intake with good
So far, the rivalry between Spanish and Irish fans ahead of the
match in Gdansk has largely been friendly and laced with the
renowned Irish sense of humor.
Spanish fans dressed in red and yellow seemed to match the Irish
for numbers on Thursday as supporters thronged the center of the
city ahead of kickoff.
A Polish couple who had just got married were also caught by the
football fever, the groom donning a matador’s hat and waving a red
cape as his newlywed wife charged – and vice versa – to the cheers
of watching Spain fans.
Bullfighting costumes were a particular favorite, with chants of
”Viva Espana” ringing out around the city’s main square to the
accompaniment of drums and trumpets.
”We’re going to win the group and now you’re going to believe
us,” came the Irish response.
Ireland captain Robbie Keane has praised the support his team
has received and sounded a defiant note ahead of the showdown.
”Most people have probably written us off and not given us any
hope,” he said. ”But there’s not a chance I would go into a game
believing we are going to get beaten by anybody. It’s 11 versus 11
over 90 minutes.”
Mark Walsh can be reached at http://twitter.com/MAWalsh40