Eoin Butler's Q&A

 

Fanzine writers David Byrne, Liam Murray and Ger Keville rate Ireland’s chances in Group C

Where did the idea for the magazine come from?Ger: It started as pub talk. We’d noticed that if you went to any League of Ireland match, or any Premiership game, each team had a fanzine on sale at their ground. But the Irish soccer team had none. So we started to produce a magazine for every competitive home game, beginning with the Israeli game in 2005.

We squandered a two-goal lead in that game. Was that a portent of things to come?David: Yes. The Israeli keeper Dudu Aouate still crops up regularly in our Likes and Dislikes column for the amount of time-wasting he did that day.

Acrimony has loomed large in Ireland’s recent football history. Could you remind us of some of the big stories you’ve covered since 2005?Liam: Well, Thierry Henry’s famous handball in Paris and the Stephen Ireland controversy have generated a lot of comments on our website. David: The Saipan row in 2002 also is still hugely controversial. I recently put up a post to mark its 10th anniversary and it got over 500 hits in less than 10 minutes.

How many Republic of Ireland fans are expected to travel to Poland this month?Ger: The Poles are expecting 60,000. That’s based on a survey of hotels, flights and so on.

How are they getting there?Dave: Lots are travelling by camper van. I’ve no idea why it’s so popular. Guys farting and sweating in a cramped space for two days – it’s cheaper to fly. Ger: I blame [the Christy Moore song] Joxer Goes to Stuttgart. David: There’s a group called Pedal to Poland cycling from here to Gdansk. It turns out “pedal” is a derogatory term for paedophiles in Polish. So basically their shirts say “Paedophiles to Poland”. I hope they don’t get murdered.

BBC’s ‘Panorama’ programme has warned of possible fan violence during the tournament. Are you concerned at that prospect?David: These sorts of warnings seem to occur before every tournament. There were dire warnings about violence in South Africa that also never materialised. Poland will be fine. They’re really looking forward to having us. Ger: We visited Sopot, where the Irish team is based, back in February and were invited to meet the mayor. The mayor was wearing an Irish scarf and the TV crews were asking us questions.

What kind of topics were they interested in?Ger: “How many are coming over? Are you looking forward to visiting Poland? Do you think the Irish fans will sample the local delicacies?” David: I remember they were particularly interested in knowing what kind of food Irish fans would eat.

I hope you told them to invest in rashers?The three of you are travelling. Where are you based for the duration of the group stage? David: Between one and two thousand YBIGers – those are people who post on our website – will be based in the city of Torun during the group games. It’s a small city located about halfway between Poznan and Gdansk, where the games are being held, and they’ve really bent over backwards to accommodate us. We’ve organised a fans game between the Irish and Polish fans in aid of a local hospice. There’s going to be a volleyball competition, a boat race and we’re going to visit a local prison to play football against the inmates.

Okay, down to brass tacks. Ireland are playing Croatia tomorrow. What’s an acceptable result to aim for?All (in unison): Don’t lose. Ger: But even if we do lose, it’s not the end of the world. Look at Chelsea in the Champions League this year – they beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich playing the kind of football we’ll be playing. David: There’s a lot of talk about Croatia, but I think Italy are also a team we can realistically hope to beat.

Famous last words perhaps?Ger: No, I genuinely think we can do well. I know this drum has been beaten a few times, but if you look at the spirit we have in this team, I think it’s quite remarkable. All the players have spoken about it. That’s something a lot of other countries don’t have. Against Spain, I predict the Spanish will have 82 per cent possession but we’ll beat them 1-0. You heard it here first!

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