Normal service resumes for long-suffering fans

Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 01:00

EURO 2012 ROAD TRIP: DAY 15:IT WAS the day the circus left town and, as normal life resumed in Poznan, there was an air of deep sadness among the locals. Or so we flattered ourselves to think.

Certainly they gazed at our retreating camper vans with a wistfulness that suggested their lives would never be as exciting again as we had briefly made them. But then again, it could also have been a look of sympathy, as they reflected on the plight of thousands of gormless football fans who had celebrated so much for so little.

It was hard for us to go. In fact, in the sweltering temperatures that have suddenly enveloped the city, some Irish supporters lingered for the afternoon around the campsite at Lake Malta, with its many sunshine-friendly amenities. And as late as tea-time, a few still loitered in the much more functional surrounds of the Camper Van Village, even as it was being dismantled around them.

The profitability of the venture was ironically underlined by one of the last vans to leave, containing a group of lads from Tipperary: Liam Frewen, Jamie McCormack and Richie Morrissey. They hadn’t paid anything, having won their pitch – 11 days rent free – in a 2FM competition.

“We couldn’t have afforded it otherwise – we would have been staying in some s**t hole instead,” they explained.

And right enough, the pitch would have cost €880. Well might they be so slow to leave such a valuable piece of Poznan real estate, and take their chances on the road again, on the long route back to Fethard and Mullinahone.

Like a few other vans, theirs bore the evidence of misadventures on the way out. Not having a sat-nav, they got lost a lot. Another measure of how eventful their road trip has been, for good and bad, is that the daily blog ( therockroadtrip.tumblr.com) they planned to write about it has not been updated since Berlin.

I know how they feel. Having brought my family on a journey of many unplanned stopovers (no sat-nav here either) while posting daily in The Irish Times, I’m not sure whose stress levels are now higher: mine or the van’s. Still, there was fun along the way too, even if very little of it derived from the team’s performances.

When the games are long forgotten (we’re already working on it) other memories will survive, many concerning our hosts. For all that there were big profits to be made out of the Irish fans, the relationship transcended that. The Poles were welcoming and friendships were made in the past 10 days. A point again underlined by the lads from Tipperary.

Even after surrendering the pitch, their first night’s accommodation outside Poznan was to be free also. En route home, they were giving a lift to Dimitri, the young man who did sentry duty on the campsite gate each night. His job had involved checking wristbands and preventing inward beer smuggling or other such misdemeanours. Now he was going home to Gniesno and, proving that it wasn’t all about the money, he invited the Tipp lads to visit his parents and stay the night.


Series concluded