Wrapped up in that famous Merkel flag
When a group of friends, all graduates of the University of Limerick, decided to join the masses supporting the Irish team at Euro 2012 last summer, the last thing they expected was that they would be the ones making worldwide headlines. Yet Richie Tuohy, Eoin Cantwell, Gerard Nolan, Conor O’Dwyer, Eoin O’Brien and Richie Leahy found themselves in newspapers all over the world, including Germany’s bestselling newspaper Bild. They were interviewed by the BBC, US television and RTÉ, and returned home from the tournament as minor celebrities.
It all came about after the group tweeted a picture of themselves at Dublin Airport holding up a flag with the slogan “Angela Merkel thinks we’re at work” before departing for the tournament.
Tuohy, who is 25 and living and looking for work in Dubai, takes up the story. “We only decided about a week and a half beforehand to do it. We had plans to say ‘guys on tour’ or ‘lads on tour’ and then we decided we’d go with something topical. I think originally we were going with ‘Enda Kenny thinks I’m at work’ but then changed it to Angela Merkel to get a bit more notice. Gerry Nolan took a picture of us on his phone at the airport and put it up on Twitter before we left. The first call we got was when we landed about two hours later. It was the BBC.”
Tuohy says from then on during the time they were at the Euros their phones were hopping. The lads very much embraced the publicity as they were short a few tickets for each match and the extra attention helped in the pursuit of tickets. They decided that any media looking for interviews would have to travel to meet them as they wouldn’t allow the media attention to get in the way of football and other frolics. “We weren’t going out of our way to meet the media. Even when we were standing in a local square with the flag, people were coming up and talking to us. We loved it all. It was great craic.”
While they were away the lads decided to raffle the flag for charity on RTÉ radio. Since then they have also used it for further charity collections, and more than €25,000 has been raised to date. So where is the flag now?
“Three of the lads are still in Ireland and they have the flag. A woman bought it and she wants to take it to Australia after Christmas. At the moment the lads have it hanging up in their flat in Dublin.”
Since they returned home after the Euros the lads have also deepened their relationship with Germany, and have been invited to the German embassy in Dublin on several occasions, although they have not managed to meet Merkel.
“The German ambassador thought it was great craic,” says Tuohy. “He was laughing away and said it was a great example of Irish humour. He is a big football fan and we’ve met him three or four times now. He knows the craic. We don’t know about Angela Merkel though. Some journalist rang her office for a statement and a spokesperson said they didn’t comment on individual cases but some flags are funnier than others. We got the impression she had seen it and was as much shell-shocked about it all as we were at the time.”