Euro 2016: On quitting while we are ahead
Irish fans in France were showing signs of exhausting their stock of wit and charm
Fans watch nervously as their team prepare to take an early penalty in the match between the Republic of Ireland and France during the Euro 2016 match, in the fanzone at Smithfield Square in Dublin city centre. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Writing just before the Republic’s elimination from the tournament, a local journalist described the image built up by the team’s fans in France as a combination of “Super Nanny, Mother Teresa, and Coluche” (Coluche being a much-loved comedian of the last century).
That seems a fair enough summary of the supporters’ achievements, even if none of the three people mentioned was known for fixing punctures, or panel-beating cars. As for epic feats of alcohol consumption, maybe Coluche – who once said “All men are born equal – then they start drinking” – covered that.
But if there was a consolation in Ireland’s brave defeat in Lyon, it was that the fans were already showing signs of having exhausted the repertoire of wit and charm that had so seduced France for the previous fortnight. They were at risk, had our tournament continued indefinitely, of becoming their own tribute act, maybe even descending into self-parody.
So, painful as it was, Ireland’s dignified loss to the hosts allows us to go home while we’re still ahead.
Then there was the cost. Thanks in part to the shamefully small allocation of tickets to which the Euro 2016 organisers treated us in Lyon, this had already become a very expensive trip for those here from the start.
Luckier onesUniversity of Limerick
At the risk of looking silly, they were then approached repeatedly by locals who had one or two to spare. Five of the seven UL fans had been sorted (“for face value, plus about €50 each”) by teatime. And speaking of face value, by way of bonus for the odd sunglasses, they had also been interviewed by a string of TV channels on the look-out for Irish droles.
At the other end of the ticketing spectrum were Cathal Swinburn and Melissa Gartlan, from Monaghan, and their Galway friend Daniel Fox. All had attended the three Irish group games and, as soon as the final whistle blew in Lille, they were determined to be in Lyon too.
So within an hour of the win over Italy, they had parted with “€700 a pop” for three France- Ireland seats, via an online agency. “We had ones for the Portugal-Croatia game, so we were able to get a bit back on them,” said Swinburn. But the laws of supply and demand are not friends of the committed Irish football supporter, and they still suffered a big hit.
Of course, the costs of being a sports fan are not just financial. Even before Sunday’s agonies, many people here had been through an emotional wringer on Saturday, thanks to the Irish rugby teams, senior and under-20.
Lyon’s several Irish bars were somewhat stretched all weekend, and not just by the challenge of keeping the beer on tap. There was also a TV scheduling problem when the rugby from South Africa clashed with the first Euro knock-out game: Poland-Switzerland.
This might have caused some Brexit-style bitterness.
But instead, negotiations were opened up with a neighbouring bar, Johnny’s Kitchen (no relation), a few doors down. That too is a one-box establishment. So it agreed to switch to the rugby, while supporters of each code could swap bars.
In the end, as has been the story of Irish fans throughout Euro 2016, harmony prevailed.