For whom the Bel tolls

NewsBy Eugene Masterson
For whom the Bel tolls

Irish fans were downbeat after yesterday’s 3-0 drubbing against Belgium in Euro 2016, but remained hopeful that the Boys in Green could still win our last game against Italy on Wednesday.

Ireland now need to win that match to stay in the tournament.

The Green Army marches on to Lille for that match, after they sang their hearts out yesterday in Bordeaux to cheer on the team.

Tickets for the 40,000 seater stadium were scarce, with just as many Irish supporters watching the big game in bars and the fan zone in the French city.

Ireland had just two shots on target yesterday in what has been viewed as a huge disappointment following our great show against Sweden in Paris on Monday.

“We were totally outclassed in every department, how many shots on goal did we have? Zero,” said Tony Whelan, originally from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and now living in New York.

“We made no opportunities at all, we were totally outplayed.”

However, he remains hopeful about our prospects on Wednesday.

“I’m pretty confident with Italy, I think Ireland will rebound,” he predicted. 

Stephen Doake, from Creeslough, Co. Donegal, also felt there was room for improvement.

“We just weren’t good enough really, Belgium were just a lot better,” he pointed out. “I expected the game to be a lot like the first half, we were holding tight but then we just absolutely lost it in the second. I thought we played far too defensively. 

“We played a lot better in the first half against Sweden, so I don’t know why they changed tactics.”

As for the upcoming Italy game: “If they rest their players, it could be a good thing, or it might be a bad thing because their players are going to be fresh. I don’t think our players looked very fit, they seemed to be out of energy very quickly.”

It was probably a step too far for Ireland,” admitted Tom Mungovan, from Holloway, north London and whose parents hail from Clare and Westmeath.

“Belgium’s class showed after a tight first half, we needed to take take a few half chances.”

John Shea, from Athlone, was also disappointed.

“Twice in the second half they should have nailed the right winger,” he stressed. “With Italy, they’ve got a bit a chance.”

Niall Treacy, from Castleknock, Co Dublin, added: “I think Belgium were the better team, we had a few half chances.

“I’d give us a better chance against Italy because I think they’ve less firepower, but probably you still have to fancy the Italians.”

Fintan Drea, from Bagnellstown, Co Carlow, was scathing of our tactics.

“The long ball game is not working for us,” he complained. “We need a better game plan than what we used today, absolutely terrible all round. We played quite well against Sweden and I thought we’d improve upon that a little bit, but we just went back to what looked like Trapatonni tactics, long ball over the top and Belgium had us outwitted from the start

 “Italy are playing really well and I cant see us getting a result unfortunately.”

Theo Kearney, Fennagh, Co Carlow, described the result as “unfortunate”.

“We held them until half time but in the second half we just got blown away and we didnt know what to do with the ball,” he said.  “It was very disappointing.”

Tickets for yesterday’s big Euro game against Belgium were so scarce on the ground that more Irish fans ended up watching the game in bars in Bordeaux than at the actual stadium.

Tickets, which started at a face value of E55, were fetching E1000 from touts outside the ground, but there were few takers.

The Green Army did not care where they were in Bordeaux as they lapped up the atmosphere, with even the sun coming out to shine on the Boys in Green after several days of miserable weather.

“You’ve got your chocolate, we’ve got our beer,” jovial Irish fans sang to Belgian rivals on packed trams to the stadium.

Some followed with a wry smile: “Tintin is a w***ker, Tintin is a w***ker!”

Old favourites such as, “We all dream of a team of Gary Breens,” were joined by new songs such as ‘Wes Holohan, he’s Eamon Dunphy’s man.”
Waterford lads Kevin Curran, John Cummins, David O’Brien and David Bennison savored every moment.

And John was representing his city in more ways than one- the 32-year-old is the Mayor of the city.

“We have season tickets for all the games,” he explains. “We were in Scotland and a few more. I was in Scotland a few years ago. Its fantastic cheering on the Boys in Green.

“There were obviously fears before the tournament when we were thinking about coming here but and thankfully nothing has happened. We have seen the problems in Marseilles and Lille. We were in la Rochelle on the way down from Paris.

Kevin added: “This is my first ever away game and we did find it hard to get tickets. We’re here to cheers the lads on, whatever the result.”

Liam and Patrick Masterson, Dara and Oscar Keane, all wearing Irish jerseys, were brought along by their parents Stephen and Margaret Masterson and Fiounnula Keane, from Perrystown, Co Dublin.

“There’s a great atmosphere here,” reflected Margaret.  “This is my first away Ireland game. So far so good, the Belgian fans are so nice, very friendly - two well matched crowds. I’m delighted to come.”

It was also Fionnuals’s first game.

“We’re here for the boys mainly,” she explains. “They go to some of the home games.”

Stephen is a diehard fan and has been to many previous away games.

“I was at 88, 1990 and 94, then I got married and things changed,” he notes. “But I’m loving it here and it’s great to bring the kids along with a new generation supporting Ireland.”

Pals Adam McKnight, Darren Gainsford, Colm Mulvey, Conor O’Neill, from Firhouse, Dublin, were also in good spirits.

“The beer’s a bit expensive but we’re really enjoying it, it’s great craic,” says Adam.

Dubliners  Paddy Gillick, Glasnevin, Sean O’Connor, Cabra, and James Mc Cann, Ballymun were joined at the big game by friend  Colin Moore, Celbridge, Co Kildare.

“I was in Poland four years ago and this is a different buzz as it’s bigger, but it’s great craic,” says Sean.

Conor Adam McKnight, Darren Gainsford, Colm Mulvey, Conor O’Neill, all from Firhouse, Dublin, were enjoying their first tournament.

“We got tickets fairly handy,” reveals Adam. “The only problem is trying to get a drink, they know you want a drink but they wont pour us a pint! The prices haven’t been too bad here, Paris was insane we were paying a tenner for a pint. It’s good craic, nobody really cares about the prices when we’re having good fun.”

Belgian fan Ward Blues is actually married to an Irishwoman.

“Her name is Mairead Sheehan and she’s from Limerick,” he discloses. “ We live in London. We got engaged a while ago and it was part of a deal that I go away and cheer my team on while she stays at home. I’m sure she’s supporting Ireland though when she’s watching it on television.”