Tag Archives: fans’ match

Euro 2016 Diary: A week with Catalpa and the Irish Fans

30 Jun


Day 1, Tuesday 14th June 2016. 

A very unpromising start to the trip as Ciarán, who had been in Paris for the Sweden game, texted at 7am to say the French air traffic controllers were on strike again so a furious trawl through the Ryanair flights soon revealed that our second flight from Stansted to La Rochelle was still unaffected, despite many others in French air space having been cancelled.

Ray’s wife Louise collected me and I spent the trip to the airport checking the flight status and thankfully it remained active.

Two mid-morning airport pints and a “Howya buddy” to Keith Duffy later (travelling out for a sponsored cycle), we boarded the Dublin-Stansted flight, accompanied by a few dozen other Irish fans making their way out to France.  On arrival in Stansted, the departure board told us the flight was an hour delayed so in we went to Wetherspoons and ordered a pint and as the head settled on my Guinness, Ian Byrne from Springfield breathlessly told us the gate was closing for the La Rochelle flight, so the Guinness lay unslurped, Ray took his Carlsberg with him and Ian’s roast chicken lunch went ordered but uneaten as we all legged it to the departure gate.

I said to Ian “but the departure board said it’s an hour late”.

Ian: “When did you check that?”

Me: “Ten minutes ago”.

Ian laughed as we continued to leg it up and down stairs and escalators and the two earlier Guinness sloshing around me stomach.   We got to the departure gate and they hadn’t even started boarding, shower of shite.  Could’ve had me pint but best not take any chances and we were grateful the plane was leaving, whatever time it was, given the strikes.   We took off, relaxed and prepared for arrival at La Rochelle.


We breezed through the tiny La Rochelle airport about 7pm and took a taxi to bring us to our digs at Pierre et Vacances and as reception had closed, a voice message had given me the instructions to get in to the place and drop our bags as we were keen to catch up with Ciarán and also Dessie and Glenn Sommerville who’d brought out our instruments last week.  Ciarán himself had only arrived at the digs before us so we got in and unloaded the instruments from Des’ car and happy that all were in one piece and we headed up to The General Humbert bar who had kindly given us the two gigs this week.

The Humbert was already very well packed with Irish fans, several of whom were known to me from YBIG so within minutes our hosts, Pépé and Nicolas Bourdel had a steady supply of welcoming pints of Guinness flowing for us and the playlist of various Irish music (including our Irish to the Core track) was beating out through the house speakers.  Fáilte go La Rochelle!!

Welcome to Humbert's

First night,Gaz and Del

We finished the night in a local bar with Belgian beer but by then we were all running on empty, tired, fairly bevvied and ready for the bed, so I don’t think we actually finished off the one beer we ordered there.  Lightweights………….oíche mhaith!

***********************************************************************Day 2, Wednesday 15th June.

We emerged from the beds about 10.30 I suppose.  Our room consisted of bunk beds and a sofa bed in the back room.  Ray’s height meant he couldn’t sleep in the bunks so after my initial night sleeping in the top bunk and having a pain in my hole going up and down the ladder at night needing several pisses, I was glad Ray took to the sofa bed for the remaining six nights.

We headed out for a first wander around La Rochelle and looking for some breakfast after a heavy enough first night, although it had been heavy, I’d no hangover which was a big help.  After walking up and down the harbourside a couple of times and my tongue hanging out for some food, we settled on a place beside the two big towers of La Rochelle, each notable by the tricolours of both France and Ireland being flown, La Rochelle was certainly throwing out the Céad Míle Fáilte mat to the Paddies arriving.  We devoured our French brekkie of bacon, eggs, lettuce, orange juice and coffee and enjoyed the really scenic and relaxed atmosphere around La Rochelle.  Two Irish lads joined us and after a bit of banter they told us they’d heard there was a “RA band” playing later, to which to their surprise we revealed our identity as being the “RA band” and we all had a good laugh at that label.  We told them the RA band would be playing at 7 that night, we put on our balaclavas and headed off.

We went for a little stroll around the rest of the immediate town and then had our photo taken by a photographer from Inpho.ie who was doing plenty of snapping as the fans began to steadily appear.

We headed back to our digs and took out the instruments back to the quayside as we felt it mightn’t be a bad idea to tell as many Paddies as we could that we had a gig later in the Square at Place de La Fourche opposite the General Humbert bar and indeed many were glad to know there was something for them to (hopefully) enjoy rather than just sitting in a pub all night getting hammered, it’d be nice to be outside listening to ballads and getting hammered.  So we did two or three songs down at the quayside and that was enough and we headed back up to The General Humbert with the instruments and leads and all the rest for the gig later.

As the digs were self-catering, we raided the local shop for some food and water and groceries so we could at least try to cook and eat some proper healthy food while we were staying and after filling up the fridge we headed back up to the Square to get the sound check sorted out as the gig was starting for 7pm in order that we’d be finished by 9pm when France were playing Albania.

Sound check done and start time up, Irish fans and French locals slowly but surely trickled into the narrow but picturesque Square and by midway through the two hour set, the heat was really on and the middle-aged blonde lady who owned some sort of boutique or craft shop was rocking and boogeying her way through Catalpa’s lively set of songs.  By the last half hour or so, the Square was positively rocking and as we finished the set with our usual end number “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, the Irish were in party overdrive by now and it was a great sight to see and lovely to hear the big crowd bellowing it back to us.  Our encore consisted of an acapella “Come on You Boys in Green” and a memorable “I just Can’t Get Enough” (a RA band playing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and I Just can’t Get Enough – some RA band!) brought the house down and nearly brought the adjoining buildings down such was the noise and bouncing Paddies and French.  Amhrán na bhFiann brought the curtain down on a really brilliant night and we sold a few albums and packed up the gear.  One lad finally succumbed to his drunkenness and the by now severe perspiration by finally removing his jocks with his shirt and shorts having earlier been removed.  It wasn’t a particularly pretty sight, but it was pretty damn funny………. Only one naked fan wasn’t a bad return in fairness.

First Gig

General Humbert’s was absolutely jammed so we decided we needed a quiet comedown from the huge gig high, so we strolled down the street and around to the small but very hospitable Café La Renommée, accompanied by our roadies Des and Glenn and also Paul Lucas from Clondalkin and his beer glove.  The landlady was delighted at our custom as we reflected and wound down with some really nice beers (landlady stood us one on the house) and word got to us that the Irish Daily Mirror had captured our last few numbers and posted on its Facebook page, with views already at some 30,000!!!  We laughed and saluted our good vibe from this and called for five more beers and a Coke for young Glenn.  Dessie then decided he’d buy a glass of champagne back for the landlady, but Dessie being Dessie, decided to buy the whole bloody bottle and share it amongst us.

Ciarán: “For Fuck’s sake Dessie, that’s too much, thanks a million but that’s too much”

Dessie: “Memories Ciarán, memories!!”

Sláinte Dessie.


First gig in Cafe Renommee

We headed back to Humbert’s and were treated to a hilarious rendition of “Where’s Me Jumper” from Paul Lucas with Ray weaving about behind him.  Very funny it was.

A great night, which I believe we finished with a kebab and fries down the road in Le Rif.


Day 3, Thursday 16th June.

Bit ginger getting out of the leaba this morning but again, despite some tiredness and a raging thirst, the headache was missing and once Ray had kindly rustled up a decent bacon omelette and Ciarán had delivered some coffee making filters, we were up and running again and ready to face another day of football and beers in La Rochelle.

Tommy Shields from Loughrea had been on during the morning.  Tommy had done an incredible amount of preparatory work to promote La Rochelle to the Irish YBIG members and had, with the also incredible support and generosity and tenacity of Pépé and Nico at General Humbert’s managed to organise a Fans’ game for charity in the local football stadium for the Friday.  So it was arranged for 4pm that Tommy and I, with Nico and Pépé would meet with the Mayor and some of his entourage and get some photos ahead of tomorrow’s game.

YBIG shirts to Bourdels

We  (Ray and Ciarán and myself) first headed up to a fine little bar called Le Diplomate where about a dozen Paddies were playing pool and some of the women playing board games so the landlady was enjoying the good atmosphere in her boozer.  We left there to go back to last night’s venue Café La Renommée to watch the England v Wales game and I legged it at half time with YBIG shirts to give to the Mayor, Nico and Pépé and took a few photos outside the pub.  A players’ meeting was also set up for later, but on reflection it wasn’t a great idea with the Northern Ireland v Ukraine game on after the England game so I didn’t really get to meet any of the players ahead of tomorrow (I only previously knew five of the twenty three) but that was ok.  England got a jammy last minute winner to beat Wales, while Michael O’Neill again proved what a canny gaffer he is by steering the Nordies to a 2-0 victory over Ukraine to all but guarantee their Green and White Army a place in the last 16.  Remarkable but not altogether surprising given my knowledge of O’Neill.

We were all Hank Marvin anyhow and Ciarán persuaded us to get some grub at the café beside the stage where we did the gig.  A U2 Tribute band were playing there and we reckoned it’d be good to see what they were like while having some grub and a glass of wine.  The band was excellent, the glasses of wine became several bottles and I hated the seafood platter.  Ciarán went to town on it, Lucas was 50/50 and Ray seemed to enjoy it so much he went and fell against the French quare wan beside our table knocking over her beer.  The rest of us fell about the place while Ray, with not a word of French and barely audible English, apologised profusely to the stricken Mademoiselle and replaced the spilt bottle while the rest of us regained our breaths from the laughter.  Pépé and Nico joined us and helped finish off the platter and to our amazement and gratitude took care of the bill. We headed back over to the Humbert for a bit, but after listening to Shane Long’s on Fire the last two nights, we took our leave of the heaving and singing Paddies and went for a quiet one down the street in The Troll Bar, again by that stage the livers were crying enough and my disdain for the seafood platter meant I was absolutely ravenous so I nipped next door to Le Rif Kebab shop and filled my boots before strolling back to Pierre et Vacances at a late hour.

Seafood Platter


Day 4, Friday 17th June.

Fans’ Match Day.Another non-hangover morning which was becoming increasingly impressive given the volume of beer I was putting away so once breakfast was consumed, all was well with the world again.

Des drove us all out for an hour down the motorway to Ile De Ré (via McDonald’s for Glenn) for a bit of a change of scene and it was a nice enough spot where we enjoyed a quayside beer.  Ray particularly enjoyed the trees and bushes and he was actually very upset that we were leaving all that shrubbery and scenery behind and heading back down the road to our base.

After arriving back in La Rochelle, we watched the first half of Italy v Sweden in Le Café Renommée and Glenn (who would be my assistant for the match) and I headed up to Humbert’s as we were due to leave on the bus to the Fans’ game at 4.30.  Tommy decided (rightly) we’d watch the end of the Italy game and there were huge cheers when Italy scored a late goal to make it two wins out of two and increase our chances of qualifying from the group if we could get a win in either of our last two games.

So we all barrelled into the bus about 5pm and I was at last able to meet all the players who I wasn’t yet familiar with.  All seemed keen and ready to go but with 22 players in the squad, I had a real test to make sure everyone got sufficient and as equal minutes as possible so me brain had to work harder than it did since arriving in France.

The set up was very impressive, a very nice local football stadium, bars open at the end of the ground (also selling food) and Nico and Pépé had done amazing work in getting commemorative kits for the team with their names on the back as well, really brilliant and went down a treat with the players.  The pitch was in decent nick but my concern was its size, really wide which would test the hangovers of the players!

So we kicked off about 6.30 and national anthems and the French lads presented Tommy with a commemorative shirt with “O’Malley” on the back (for the Carl O’Malley Trust, the Irish side of the charities, “Neuf de Coeur” was the French charity) and a La Rochelle shirt also and off we went.

It soon became apparent that the French selection had eh, played before as our defence and Barry Donovan in goal were very quickly working overtime and although it took an unlucky own goal off Kieran “Scamper” O’Donoghue (another bloody own goal following Ciaran Clark in Paris) to open the scoring, the French team just were too good for our thrown together team.  Despite everyone doing their complete best and giving 100%, the half time score read 6-0 to the French.

I changed the formation to 9-1-0 for the second half.  Sorry, 3-5-2 and shoring up midfield helped somewhat, although France stretched their lead to 7-0 early second half, but finally came our moment.

Patrick Lynn volleyed a fine shot home to open our scoring and away he went on a triumphant sprint to celebrate.  Forrest Gump would’ve been proud of him and as it was turn to be withdrawn, he did it for me anyhow, finishing his run on our touchline and puking his ring up.  I thought I was seeing things, but another vomit made its way onto the grass as we all pissed ourselves laughing while Patrick probably near pissed himself while heaving up last night’s ale.  We rallied and reduced the arrears to 7-4 and their keeper made some fine saves so we made a game of it (Ross Zambra scoring two and Mick Donnelly making up for a hilarious early fall on the touchline with the other Irish goal) and the game finished on a 7-4 scoreline and everyone seemed to enjoy taking part in the game.

I wish to thank very sincerely all the lads who lined out for us and kept going to the end and again to Nico, Pépé and Tommy for all they did in getting this organised, an incredible amount of work went into this day.  The 22 brave men and true from Waterford, Nenagh, Omagh, Athlone, Dublin and Galway were as follows:  Barry Donovan, Kieran O’Donoghue, Damien Ryan, Mark Beaumont , Ciaran Kiveney, Eoin O’Flaherty, Joe McCormaic, Patrick Flaherty, Lewis Brien, Francis Creaven, Patrick Lynn, John O’Neill,  Alan Forrestal, Ross Zambra,  Colin McKenna, Ian Campbell, Padraig Brock, Shane McNamara, William Condon,  Mick Donnelly, Ryan Kelly and John O’Connor.  I gave my commemorative shirt to Glenn.

We availed of a quick beer and hot dog before boarding the bus back to town.

Fans Team


We then were invited up to the wine bar just up from Humbert’s called Le Guignette for a small players’ reception where drinks (Ricard’s pastis, very nice and Jameson whisky) would be served. Eventually all (or nearly all) the lads filed in and we enjoyed the drinks that were put on for us and both national anthems were sung to put the seal on a very enjoyable afternoon

Tommy and Gaffer

With Bordeaux looming large early in the morning (buses would leave at 8.30am), it was hoped I’d hit the bed early.  Some hope.  Ray and Ciarán did do the sensible thing but I was going about many of the players thanking them for today and having a pint with many of them, so before I knew it was fuck off o’clock in the morning again and I eventually wobbled back to Pierre Et Vacances.  A really enjoyable day and night all the same!


Day 5, Saturday 18th June.  Ireland v Belgium.

Got out of the pit gingerly at 7.30 but excited nevertheless at the day ahead.  Steve Krijger from YBIG had his work cut out with the French coach drivers as they had completely altered the agreed lists of names to the allocated coaches so we left about an hour late as Steve had to pretty much start from scratch and then there were issues with the drivers over rest periods and whatnot, they make our unions look exemplary really.

We brought the instruments on the bus which in hindsight was a silly idea.  Everyone was knackered, hungover and other emotions so a singsong was low on everyone’s priority and the coach to Bordeaux was very quiet.  We reached Bordeaux about midday and the weather was slowly improving.  Ciarán’s wife Catríona had arrived in Bordeaux so he went into the city to meet up with her and the rest of us hung about the vicinity of the stadium to find some food and drink stalls.  I decided to stay off the gargle ahead of the match and glad I did, but all round me most lads and lasses were tucking in again and fair play to them.

Eventually about 1.30 we decided to head up to the stadium and the security check was passed pretty quickly.  The Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux it must be said is absolutely top notch inside but the steep walk up to our 2nd from the back seat was arduous enough but we settled into the seats about 2pm and soaked up the pre-match atmosphere.

The game itself isn’t really worth going back over, we were very disappointing having played so well against the Swedes and the match is particularly memorable for an abject refereeing performance from the Turkish clown, but that’s not to say he cost us the points.  We were shite on the day and Belgium recaptured a bit of form, so 3-0 wasn’t a particularly unrealistic scoreline.

I was  however raging at Aiden McGeady’s full time disappearance down the tunnel at full time without so much of a wave of acknowledgment to the Irish fans.  Robbie Keane ensured all player and subs did so, but McGeady had gone and I was bulling at him.  We filed out of the stadium bewildered, deflated and chastened.

Stade de Nouveau

We didn’t fancy a trip into the city centre and back out again for the coaches (8.30 departure time, it was now 5pm) so we braved the big queues and scant bar service in the nearby Ibis Hotel for some post-match sorrow drowning.  The mood was understandably flat but the beers kicked in after an hour or two and my past and present Social Welfare lads in Frank Aherne, Paul Doolan, Liam Butler and Dave Galvin and their gang got a bit of a singsong going which lifted spirits and killed another hour, we’d a bit of crack anyhow.  Ray and Dessie headed off to get a case of beer for the coach back and having bumped into our old pal Gerry Reardon from the FAI and several more YBIG lads in the Ibis, I strolled up philosophically but slightly giddily up to the coach back having rang Louise back home with the story of the day.

Social Welfare Heads

Catríona joined us in the coach and again, the instruments remained in their cases, although the Aherne crew (those who stayed awake after the post-match beers) tried and failed to sing Celtic Symphony several times and those of us at the back made our through the Kronenburg 1664 bottles, as did a certain individual who raided the fridge of Dessie/Ray’s beers knowing they weren’t his.  Ray spotted this mortal sin and reminded him gently to whom they belonged and he returned them to the fridge smartly.

We arrived back in La Rochelle near 11 I suppose and went back to Pierre Et Vacances and dropped the instruments back into the room.  I reckoned it was way too early to go to bed on a trip like this despite the defeat and tiredness and with a goo on me from the coach beers, so Ray and I and Dessie headed back to Humbert’s.  Jaysus you’d think we’d won the match such was the atmosphere.  Some lads were a bit horrified at the idea of Irish fans enjoying themselves after such a crushing defeat and I may have had that view years ago, but I’m of the view nowadays that we only lost a game of football and we may as well make the best of it afterwards.  We spent most of the rest of the night down the back at the smoking area and I again had a bit of a wander to chat to various YBIG/Fans team lads.  Nenagh’s Kieran O’Donoghue who has really caught the Ireland bug, fervently and repeatedly told me of how he hopes one day to have a “Houghton moment” supporting Ireland.  I promised him he would.  It would come a lot sooner than both of us imagined……….


Day 6, Sunday 19th June.

Yet again, despite another long day and night on the sauce, I didn’t have to reach for the Disprin.  I did however decide Dioralyte would be a good call given the gig later on where nervous and physical energy would be used up, but up to now, the health was standing up really well.

Ciarán headed out on a drive to L’Ile de Ré with Catríona so Ray and I headed up to Humbert’s early afternoon as Ray’s beloved Tyrone were playing Cavan in the Ulster Semi and that’d be shown in Humbert’s.   Tyrone blew a match-winning position to draw the match and Ray’s head in his hands at that levelling Cavan goal was a sight to behold as were the expletives towards Tyrone’s carelessness.

Today was also our second gig day and while many Irish had departed in comparison to Wednesday’s gig, we were still optimistic of a sizeable audience and so it proved.

Second Gig

Again, many French came to hear us and as hit the home straight and again with the audience now dancing and doing a conga to “Always Look on The Bright Side of Life” (captured for Joe.ie), the aforementioned blonde lady from Wednesday was again rocking and rolling in her upstairs window.  She was spotted by the Irish crowd below and when “I just Can’t Get Enough” started up, the Irish fans serenaded her from below and it was a great sight to see as the blonde lady lapped up the attention laughing her head off.  We gave Antoine (the sound engineer) the option to head off to watch the French game as we ran overtime, but fair play to him, I think he was enjoying it too much to leave anyhow so he stayed till the end and we ended the show with a grand reception from the Irish and French crowd.

We hurriedly packed up the equipment and headed back to Humbert’s and managed to find seats so we settled into them and enjoyed watching Wales make shite of Russia to top the group while England laboured to a scoreless draw with Slovakia.

We had great bit of crack anyhow after two really satisfying gigs and Catríona had christened me and Ray as “The Odd Couple” as the theme music from that movie was sung our way.  Tommy Shields again appealed for the last few euro of charity donations with the slogan “Fuck it in the Bucket” and as the night wore on and Shane Long became yet again a raging inferno and the Welsh fans in Humbert’s celebrated their qualification to the knockout stage, the night ran into familiarly late territory indeed.   I have no idea what time we ambled back to Pierre Et Vacances.

Second Gig After


Day 7, Monday 20th June.

So, last full day for us in La Rochelle, the time just pissed in, which it always seems to when you’re having so much crack and whatnot. Catriona was heading for Dublin so Ciaran headed out the airport in the morning and meself and Oscar just lazed about the apartment, with Oscar doing a spot of clothes washing in the basement.  We then had the oul beer thirst so strolled up to Le Diplomatique and enjoyed a couple of quiet ones with virtually nobody else in the place for an hour or two.

Having put the instruments into Des’ car, we then headed back to Humbert’s as Nico wanted to just conclude all our business and have a pint or two with us before it got full in the boozer again so we did that and enjoyed the crack with Nico.  How Nico and Pepe aren’t on their knees at this stage is a mystery, their stamina is incredible.  They’ve slept only 2 or 3 hours a night for the past week so I’m sure they’ll enjoy their rest after the thirsty Paddies have moved on finally, much as they’ll miss us all taking our shoes off for the Boys in Green, bellowing out Shane Long’s on Fire, Putting them Under Pressure and all the rest of the Irish playlist we heard the past week at General Humbert’s.  The staff have been seriously under pressure for a week and fair play to them, the wait for a pint was never overly long and they remained smiling, professional and brilliant in the face of a Paddy boozing onslaught the likes of which I’m sure La Rochelle has never seen and likely will never see again.

As it was the last night, we really enjoyed just chilling and having the crack and Nico kindly offered me a lift back to the airport tomorrow.  Ciaran and Oscar (Ray) were taking the train to Lille in the morning so I’d be Billy No Mates from early tomorrow. Again, what time we left there is completely unknown to me.

Final night in Humbert's


Day 8, Tuesday 21st June.

Awoken early enough as Ciarán and Ray headed for the train station to take them to Lille and Wednesday’s deciding match with Italy.  Went back to sleep and then spent the morning tidying the apartment before checking out, visiting the Aquarium and then having my first proper meal with proper food (apart from breakfasts) for a week.  Killed the hours pretty well and Nico left me back to the airport as promised…………………..Au revoir La Rochelle.

Au Revoir Humbert's

So that’s it.  It was an absolutely brilliant week in La Rochelle and I’m so glad we stayed here for our Euro 2016 base.  Getting to play two gigs with Ciaran and Ray and the reaction to the gigs will stay in my memory bank forever.  Meeting old and friends and making new ones is always another highlight of Ireland trips, but above all, the kindness, hard work and decency of Tommy Shields, Nico and Pépé Bourdel was what made our week in La Rochelle possible, so a special thanks to those three as I conclude this diary.

To the Irish fans who enhanced an already enviable reputation in world football, bloody well done lads and lasses.  As Jock Stein said all those years ago, “football without fans is nothing”.

Once more with feeling……………”Shane Long’s on fire, your defence is petrified, Shane Long’s on fire”……………etc

The End


Why I’m finished going to Ireland home games.

27 Nov


I  can’t actually believe I’ve just typed that headline above.  Since my Dad brought myself and my two brothers, Myles and Kevin to Lansdowne Road for the first time on 3rd July 1973 to see an All Ireland/Shamrock Rovers XI play the World Champions Brazil, going to home matches (and away ones for that matter) never failed to get my excitement levels soaring.  My anticipation at what lay ahead in the 90 minutes plus that I would stand on whatever terrace I could stand on (or seat I could sit in when all seater stadia were imposed on us) always was at fever pitch, whether or not it was Lansdowne Road, Dalymount Park, Tolka Park, RDS, it didn’t matter.  Supporting Ireland was my little bit of Heaven, still is and always will be.  I will however from here on and for the foreseeable future, watch the home games on my sofa or in a bar with fans (who have become firm friends over the years) who are as frustrated and demoralised as me.

So why am I finished going to home games?  Well, I’ve had it with the Football Association of Ireland.  Now before I go any further, I want to acknowledge what the FAI have done in recent years in conjunction with the Irish fans’ website You Boys in Green with which I am heavily involved.  The FAI (eventually) caved in and gave former international Dave Langan a long overdue Testimonial Dinner in October 2008.  Dave had been injured on international duty in 1981 in a never to be forgotten Worl d Cup Qualifier against France (we won 3-2) at Lansdowne Road.  That injury led to a catalogue of subsequent injuries for Dave, who fell on very hard times.  Eventually as I said however, the FAI granted Dave the testimonial dinner and this was of assistance to Dave.  Fans attending the dinner however (I was one) were horrified to learn afterwards that the pre-dinner drinks reception was deducted from Dave’s cut!  We would gladly have paid for our own drinks if we’d known the bar tab was on Dave Langan.  The money raised on Dave’s behalf was then interminably slow in getting to its rightful destination (you can read further about it in Dave’s autobiography “Running Through Walls”).  We were thankful for small mercies, Dave got his recognition, but without YBIG, Dave would still be  forgotten.

The FAI was amenable to the setting up of a “Singing Section” when Lansdowne Road was being re-developed.  Frustrated at the ghostly atmosphere while home games were played in Croke Park, YBIG asked for a designated section for vocal fans to be set up.  That was implemented.  That relationship was badly damaged however at last week’s match against the USA at Lansdowne Road.  Irish fans, frustrated at the lack of transparency and fairness in the allocation of tickets to the away game against Scotland in Glasgow (and previous games in recent years), decided to stage a peaceful protest and brought in flags/banners in protest about the FAI’s system and in protest about the Chief Executive John Delaney.  The stance the FAI took to this protest, from the fans John Delaney labelled “the best fans in the world” was to send in heavy-handed stewards and Gardai to the Singing Section.  The protest flags/banners, despite abiding by the Stadium guidelines in terms of health and safety and other regulations, were forcibly removed by stewards.  Stewards also tore up Stadium regulations when fans pointed out the banners didn’t contravene any conditions.  In short, bully boy tactics were enforced by the Association to try and “quell” a completely peaceful and justified protest.  It was un-necessary, unfair and totally unjustified on the Association’s part.  John Delaney stated in a subsequent interview that he didn’t have an issue with fans protesting about the state of Irish football.  The action by stewards and Gardai last week clearly demonstrated this was not the case.

I’m grateful to other people in the FAI who have helped YBIG in organising Fans’ matches, who have provided footballs, match kit and other facilities to us.  I have friends in the Association who I know do their job superbly and with the best interests of Irish football at heart.  The past few weeks however have made up my mind in giving the FAI any more money, or buying merchandise associated with the FAI.  The following passage will really explain why I’ve made this gut-wrenching decision.

At the end of October, emails were sent to those who applied for tickets for the match in Glasgow.  It very quickly became apparent that dozens (at least) of fans who had 100% attendance records at away games in recent years, fans who had been “promised” by FAI officials in Tbilisi in September they’d be looked after for Glasgow, had failed in their request for precious Scottish match tickets.  It also became apparent that the FAI had absolutely no system in place to ensure fans who deserved these tickets got them.  The deadline for tickets was extended by the FAI, despite the demand being over-subscribed (we would be granted 3,200 tickets by the Scottish FA, 5% of the capacity).   Why was the deadline extended?  This question was put to the FAI.  It hasn’t been answered.  It emerged that people who hadn’t even been to an Ireland home game had been given tickets to the Scotland game.

When Irish fans bought season tickets, one of the “attractions” is that it would provide a  “priority” option in securing away tickets.  Dozens (at least) of season ticket holders were denied Scottish tickets.  Some priority that.

An urgent meeting to discuss the Glasgow ticket mess was set up between YBIG and the FAI.  Questions were put to the FAI whose officials stated they would be answered.  Those questions haven’t been answered.  A follow up email to John Delaney contained the following questions:

  Does the FAI retain data from supporters after away tickets have been allocated, in respect of compiling details of how many games they have attended, and take that into account when determining whether to allocate tickets for future games?

  If the FAI does retain such data, why did the system fail so spectacularly, and why were fans such as season ticket holders with 100% away records refused tickets? We understand that an FAI employee indicated that he took his “eye off the ball” but issues remain over why individual mistakes can make such a difference and why a robust system is not in place.

  If the FAI does not retain such data, why is it not retained and considered when deciding whether supporters should be allocated tickets for away games?

  What is the meaning of the term “priority”, in the promotional material for season tickets, and what other groups have priority equal to or above season ticket holders?

  Why did the FAI change policy and assign priority to supporters’ clubs in respect of the allocation of away tickets, without making this fact publicly known?

  Why did the FAI not benchmark the allocation to supporters club against previous requests and/or season tickets held by that supporters club?

  How did the number of applications for Scotland tickets increase from the 6,000 quoted to supporters in Tbilisi, to 10,000 in FAI communications subsequently, to “four times higher than the number available” in the release of the 29th October, 2014, when the portal for away applications closed on the 31st July?

  Were applications for tickets received and considered after the 31st July, or did persons who applied after that date receive tickets when persons who applied on time did not, and if this happened, why did it happen?

  Why has the FAI sought to blame the Scottish FA for refusing to provide more tickets, when the main issue raised by YBIG and other supporters does not concern the number of tickets received but rather the means by which they were allocated?

  Why was the FAI unwilling to commit to the implementation of a fair and transparent system for the allocation of away tickets, along the lines of the Scottish FA’s own system, when they met with site users over a year ago, and also in the last week?

Not unreasonable questions I’m sure you’ll agree.  The questions have gone unanswered and have been pointedly ignored by the Association.

Anger grew towards CEO John Delaney, justifiably so following the Scottish tickets fiasco and the pathetic orders to deny a peaceful protest in Lansdowne Road last week.  Delaney attempted to shift blame for the ticket mess onto the SFA for “only” giving us 5% of the capacity of Celtic Park.  He further fanned the flames of anger by suggesting there would be “tension” around Glasgow as Irish fans were forced to buy tickets in the Scottish section.  This was disrespectful not only to the “best fans in the world” but also the Tartan Army, another set of fans with a justifiably excellent worldwide reputation.  In an infantile gesture of defiance to the SFA prior to the Scottish game, FAI officials boycotted the pre-match reception held by their Scottish hosts.

As the dust settled on Glasgow and the Lansdowne protest, anger towards Delaney soared.  It soon transpired however that John Delaney went out after the USA game to The Bath Bar adjacent to Lansdowne Road for his well-liked few pints.  During that post-match gathering,  Delaney sang “The Ballad of Joe McDonnell”, a wonderful song written from a 1981 hunger striker’s viewpoint by Brian Warfield of the legendary ballad group The Wolfe Tones.   A snippet of Delaney’s version was captured on video and posted on the Internet.

What followed has been probably the most spectacular own goal ever scored by John Delaney and the FAI.   The sports website balls.ie posted the clip of Delaney’s “singing” on its website.  A phone call from an FAI official called for its removal, with the assertion that it wasn’t in fact John Delaney singing the song.  As balls.ie had no corroboration or absolute proof it was Delaney and faced with the threat of legal action over its continued posting, they decided to remove the video.  English newspapers The Guardian and Telegraph also elected to post the video on their online versions a couple of days later.  Similar legal threats were issued to both papers, before John Delaney went on Irish radio to confirm it was in fact him singing “Joe McDonnell” in the Bath Pub after all!   So here we were in a situation where three publications were threatened with legal action over a video, with one arm of the FAI denying it was him, yet the man himself coming out and saying the opposite!

I must point out that I have no issue with John Delaney singing such a song as “Joe McDonnell”, it is as I said a wonderful song and a song I sing myself regularly.  People who understand the song’s context and history have no problem with him singing it.  The problem was in the false legal threats.  John Delaney slated the “sly” way the snippet was captured.  Yet he was in a public bar near Lansdowne Road a couple of hours after a major international.  It wasn’t exactly private was it?

Fans continued to vent their fury at the CEO’s behaviour and spin and many called for his removal as CEO.  Unfortunately, some posts on YBIG’s forum contained personal abuse aimed at Delaney and his new partner, Emma English.  The posts, once spotted by YBIG moderators, were removed.  The posters were banned and an apology issued to Ms English and an offer of a charity donation also.  It has been reported that neither Ms English nor John Delaney has accepted the apology, regrettable given that 99.9% of YBIG members would not have made such personal comments, nor condoned such comments either.

Delaney went on radio to air his anger at the “cyber bullying” of his new partner and bemoaned the invasion of privacy into his love life and his singing in the Bath Bar.   This from a couple who openly courted publicity in appearing on Irish chat shows and in several publications advertising their happiness.  This from a man who allowed a film crew follow him around for several months to make a documentary about him called “John the Baptist”.  This from a man who goes to football clubs in Ireland for a “Come Dine with Me” night.  This from a man who allows his shoes to be removed by drunken fans and throws ties into the crowd when Ireland gains a massive result.  A very private man indeed.  Anyone know who the partner/wife of IRFU CEO Philip Browne is?  Anyone see him diving into fans when Ireland were winning Grand Slams and Six Nations tournaments?  Anyone remember Philip Browne leading a sing song in a bar near the Stadium?  Did Philip Browne throw a tie into the crowd after Ireland had huge rugby wins over South Africa and Australia recently?  No, didn’t think so.  Type John Delaney and Philip Browne into youtube and see what you come up with.

In another radio interview following the ballad singing controversy, Delaney stated that the cyber-bullying from YBIG members had been ongoing.  This was incorrect.  The personal comments had been removed as quickly as feasibly possible.  Inferences by Delaney towards YBIG and its members were misleading and inaccurate, with those comments allowed to go unchallenged.  Delaney’s subsequent attempts to clean up the legal threat mess had so many holes in it, it resembled the Titanic, something The Guardian and particularly Telegraph were only too happy to dissect and show the statement up for what it was, utter nonsense.  The FAI President, Tony Fitzgerald,  then released a statement regarding the monumental Delaney own goal, which only really led to the Association scoring another one, such was the statement.

As you probably know, I support the domestic game also, attending as many Shamrock Rovers games as I possibly can.  Many selfless, committed and wonderful people go to and volunteer their time for domestic football, from Rovers fans to Bohs, their great rivals.  From Ballybofey to Cobh, from Galway to Wexford, from Sligo to Drogheda.  Despite the efforts of so many wonderful people, John Delaney recently referred to the League of Ireland as the “problem child”.  In the continuing struggle for clubs to get people through their turnstiles, the CEO saw fit to call the League a “problem child”.  Great help that Mr Delaney.  Instead of actually doing something to stamp out the various woes afflicting the domestic game, a shrug of the shoulders to a problem child was his answer.  Marvellous.

I will continue to support the domestic game and contribute to Shamrock Rovers FC as often as I can and I will attend away matches as often as I can to support other League of Ireland clubs.  I will not however, while the current regime remains in place, support the finances of the FAI.  I’m done with the spin, I’m done with the paranoia, I’m done with the misleading of Joe Public, the half truths, the cronyism and bullying.  I didn’t buy a season ticket, but I know of dozens (and probably more) who have, but they won’t be renewing them and will take the same stance as me in boycotting future home games and denying the FAI of money and I would urge others to do likewise.

I will continue to support the eleven men on the park and our team Manager, Martin O’Neill and whoever succeeds Martin when the time comes.  I will (finance allowing) support the team away from home (if I can get a ticket to see the game) and do so with passion, honesty and decency.  Honesty and decency that hasn’t been forthcoming from certain (not all I hasten to add) people in Abbotstown.  I would like to thank those in the FAI (they know who they are) who have become (and hopefully will remain) friends of mine.

Best fans in the world John?  You don’t deserve us.

Come on Ireland.

Phelim Warren, 27th November 2014.

Glasgow 2014 – Bewley’s, Buses and Boats; Beers, Ballads, Brown and Beaten. By Phelim Warren.

17 Nov


It’s always hard to believe how much one can fit in to a couple of days and nights on an Ireland away trip and I’ve done so many now, I never tire of the laughs, slagging, sessions and hangovers, even if the hangovers take longer from which to recover. Anyhow, this blog of the Euro 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Ireland is worth remembering and for those of you who were there, I hope it triggers some good memories (flashbacks?) and for those who weren’t there, I hope it gives you a snapshot of what went on.


Barry Elmes had organised for a coach load of fans to travel from Dublin to Belfast, board a ferry to Cairnryan and travel down to Glasgow from there and Thursday duly arrived following the three weeks of justifiable fan anger at the ticket allocation from the FAI. The first pick up point was Murphy’s Laughter Lounge in the city at 6.30am, with the remainder boarding at Bewley’s Hotel out by Dublin Airport for 7am. As we left with what we thought was everyone from Bewley’s, I got a phone call from Ger Keville, asking where we all were.

“Bewley’s” I replied.
Keville: “Bewley’s in Newland’s Cross?”
Me: “Bewley’s at the airport”
Keville: “FUCK”

Twenty minutes later, Ger arrived via taxi to the predictable slaughtering from the packed bus and Twitter and Facebook was rife with the words “clown”, “gobshite” and “thick”. We settled down anyhow and collected the final group who’d booked the YBIG Bus, the Newry crew.

The Newry Crew were soon in full voice and treated the rest of us to a new chant, which began “I love my wife, yes I do yes I do”. The rest of it is not really for publication on a respectable blog such as this, but it was a refrain we would hear a lot on the bus home, but I’ll get back to that later. We arrived in Belfast in plenty of time to board the Stena boat for the 11.30 sailing.

Boats, Part 1:

We all piled onto the Stena and scrambled for seats as the queue for gargle immediately swelled to keep the barman on red alert for the two hour sailing. Ger Keville in his capacity as both fan and Irish Independent journalist immediately set about getting some angles for the online Sports edition. One “story” developed about Aidan Brett from “North County Dublin” and his two travelling companions who apparently were at North Wall Ferry Terminal awaiting a ferry that wasn’t going near Scotland and that the three of them arranged a taxi to Belfast to make the trip. The story still awaits verification despite “quotes” from the “affable” (that was the funniest bit of the whole piece) aforementioned Brettser and I’m sure the three lads’ wives/girlfriends were also surprised to see their names attached to Ger Keville’s story of a €190 taxi dash from North Wall to Belfast. We arrived in Cairnryan after an uneventful if chatty and banterish 2 hours or so on the boat.

Beers, Part 1:

The beers had kicked in on the boat already and despite warnings of a booze ban on the bus while travelling through the UK, we didn’t encounter any checkpoints and we all made our way through the cans/bottles of beer on the two hour journey to Glasgow. Two became three with piss stops turning into pint stops for some (Newry and Pats crew mainly) as Barry manfully tried to get everyone back on the bus as the rest of us wanted to check in to our various accomodations in Glasgow. “I love my wife” got a few more airings as the beers brought out the amateur singers in the bus and we eventually went our separate ways on Buchanan Street at about 5pm Thursday evening.


On our first venture into Glasgow city centre (by “our”, I mean my two room-mates Ger Keville, Stephen Day and I) for beers in O’Neill’s pub, I discovered the legendary Wolfe Tones were gigging in Malone’s boozer only a few streets away. The gig was in a small venue and it was a sell-out, but a quick phone call home to Brian Warfield’s brother Noel, gave us a decent chance of making the gig. We discovered Tommy Byrne in the Pot Still Bar sitting reading his paper and he was soon joined by Noel Nagle (who I have known for many years) and Noel was delighted to tell us he’d get the three of us in to the gig in Malone’s. We apologised to Tommy for ruining his newspaper read (it was only The Star after all) and Noel ushered us up the stairs ahead of the queueing customers and in we went ready for a good old Wolfe Tones ballad night in a packed Malone’s. Tommy, Brian and Noel were in vintage voice as the two hours plus show flew in and we were joined inside by YBIG’s Zeno Kelly who shared our delight with the rest of the crowd in at the gig and I met with Brian’s son, Ciarán Warfield who I hadn’t seen in a few years which was another nice catch up!

The gig finished about midnight (a wild guess) and the four of us headed out on to Sauciehall Street for the next venue. Utter starvation enveloped me (I hadn’t eaten for probably 12 hours) and as Ger and Zeno headed to join the YBIG masses in Campus nite club, Ste and meself (well I sorta dragged Ste in) sat down for a fast food rescuer. I hoovered up the kebab and fries and my exhaustion at a long day then just hit me like a train. As we queued up to enter another club (it was a student night, no hope of getting in), I just said to Ste “I’m going to the hotel” and Ste decided he’d join me and we got a taxi back to George Square’s Premier Inn while the rest of the crew witnessed the Campus Cockfest and drank the place dry on cheap Jaegermeisters and shots. At that stage they were welcome to them as I hit the pillow and lost consciousness………………what a day/night…………


Friday morning and we were all feeling last night’s excesses, but there was a Fans’ match to be negotiated with a 1pm kick off time to enable us to get all the bags back to hotels and back out to the various boozers before heading up to Celtic Park for the main event. So Ger and meself headed up early to the Fans’ match venue at Toryglen Football Centre at 11am so we could get some breakfast up there first. Ste had headed up to Celtic Park to get his match ticket.

After an £8 taxi ride to Toryglen and a Celtic supporter taxi driver’s constant but hilarious expletive-ridden diatribe against England and Rangers, we wished each other well and walked into the Toryglen centre. The complex was absolutely superb, built by the local Council and hired out to all football users from pub teams to semi-pro teams to SPL teams. The indoor surface was top notch and the width of the pitch enormous, not a great prospect for a team mainly consisting of hungover Irish fans, but we’d worry about that when (if?) everyone turned up to play.

Everyone did turn up, some very hungover, some mildly and the non-drinkers probably hungover by association but I was pleased at the 100% attendance and I named the starting XI, with six outfield subs and a sub keeper. As I walked out on the pitch as the lads warmed up, who was pitchside only Craig Brown, former Scottish National team Manager, the last man to lead the Scots to qualification for both European and World Championships (1996 and 1998). So I sidled up to him and spoke of our honour that he was here to look in on the Fans’ game. He was extremely courteous and decent and promised to give the match a mention in his pre-match interview with Matt Cooper on Today FM, so it was a very nice start to the day’s proceedings.

The Fans’ match itself was very exciting. Scotland took a 2 nil half time lead, with a breakaway first goal and a stray defensive pass seized upon by the Scots number 9 (he bagged the first also). The two goal lead led to the first chorus in my direction from the usual collection of Irish fans of “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. I waved back with a wry grin and thought “there’s a second half to come yet”…………

Early in the second half, new cap Phil Simpson chased a lost cause to close down the goalkeeper’s clearance and Phil blocked the ball and ricocheted into the empty net to give us hope, but the Scots number 9 again burned our defence with searing pace on the hour mark to beat sub keeper Craig Reilly and make it 3-1. Ireland rallied bravely however and with 15 minutes to go, Mark Duggan got in for a tidy finish rounding the keeper and five minutes later, it was 3-3 when Ian Kirkwood dinked a lovely ball to the far post and Phil Simpson headed the ball expertly past the despairing keeper. Fans and subs and myself celebrated wildly at the tremendous revival as the Irish dug in superbly.

Sadly, in the 90th minute the same Number 9 undid us again with his fourth goal and with us out on our feet a minute later, tired bodies let in another Scotsman for number 5. Harsh. Craig Brown had remained on for the whole event and presented the respective Man of the Match awards to the players (no surprise Number 9 for Scotland and for Ireland Ian Kirkwood). As we finished the post-match photos, the Irish fans repeated their chant at my direction of earlier……….”You’re getting sacked in the morning”………..as I said, harsh, but they’re a harsh and fickle bunch that lot! Craig Brown did go on Today FM and gave the match a really positive mention (link here http://www.todayfm.com/player/podcasts/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/The_Last_Word_with_Matt_Cooper/23653/0/former_scottish_manager_craig_brown/cp_2 ) and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

For the record the squad who played was: Franny Carragher, Craig Reilly, Kev Reilly, Kevin Haughey, Francis Creaven, Finbarr Neville (captain), Conor Higgins, Mark Togher, Ger Keville, Ian Kirkwood, Barry Elmes, Kieran O’Donoghue, Phil Simpson, Aidan Brett, Dave O’Grady, Mark Duggan, Ciarán Flanagan and Brian Canavan.

Beers, Part 2

So after the excitement of Toryglen, we got the bags back to the hotel and out towards Gallowgate for pre-match beers. Everywhere was mobbed, with queues to get in some bars, so we eventually got into a small Celtic pub (meself, Ste, Ger Keville and Ross Zambra), where two of Ger’s pals joined us, Justin and Lar. The service was crap, so we left there after one pint and joined YBIG lads Del Harte, Gary Malone (and his Da Ben), Dec Glynn and others in McKinnon’s in Gallowgate. The place was jumping and we’d great crack with the Tartan Army boys in there, singing songs from Michael Fagan’s intrusion into Queen Elizabeth’s room to Hokey Cokeying to Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal. Really was excellent banter in there till we decided to head up towards Celtic Park an hour before kick-off.


I settled into the “away” end of the Lisbon Lions Stand, a stand I was very familiar with on my previous visits to the historic and iconic Celtic Park. Amhrán na bhFiann was lustily sang as the Tartan Army responded with Flower of Scotland and the noise level reached epidemic proportions by kick off time.

Scotland had the better of things early on and looked far more threatening than we did, but a lot of the game was more frantic than scientific and several yellow cards were brandished as the tackles flew in like a local derby game. The Irish support remained fervent and vocal, but I was constantly pissed off with fans around me disappearing for ten and fifteen minutes at a time to buy food and generally proving that many of the wrong sort of fans got the coveted away end tickets. Why go all that way to a match and miss chunks of it to get food? Fucking idiots…………..

Anyhow, back to second half action and Scotland continued to look the better team with Ireland going back into a long-ball routine that alarmed me greatly. It was no real surprise in the 74th minute when former Celt Shaun Maloney combined with current Celt Scott Brown with Maloney curling a lovely shot inside David Forde’s far post to send the Tartan Army into raptures. The noise was familiar to me for a home goal at Celtic Park, the place shook as we had that familiar sinking feeling. We huffed and puffed till the 94th minute with Robbie Keane introduced after Maloney’s goal. It was to no avail, Scotland 1, Ireland 0. Back to earth with a bump after Gelsenkirchen, disappointing. Very disappointing indeed. Also disappointing were reports of some coin throwing, spitting and menacing behaviour from some Scots towards Irish fans who were forced to buy tickets in the home end thanks to the FAI’s incompetence, but worse again was to be revealed as a young Scottish fan died in a fall down stairs inside Celtic Park. Perspective again………………nobody should go to a match and not come home.

Beers Part 3

So what else are we to do after a game? We made the very long walk back into Glasgow city centre from Parkhead and trudged into Campus. It was to be a brilliant Scots/Irish party with the DJ playing tunes from both nations. Again, cheap booze deals were taken up by thirsty fans and usual Friday night punters and I have to say, it was a brilliant night despite the disappointment of losing the big game. Again, tiredness overcame me and by 2.30am I’d had enough and said my goodnights to the YBIG crowd and found a Subway for a late night bit of grub.

I met John O’Neill going the other way and we spoke briefly to a Glaswegian who showed us his Celtic tattoo (and curiously took out a wad of notes having been at the casino earlier). As I walked in the general direction of George Square, I found myself unable to shake off Alex. He was chatty and I made sure that he knew I was a Celtic fan by recounting the great players, great matches and matches against Shamrock Rovers, but I just had an uneasy feeling about where he was leading me. I deliberately made the gap between us bigger as we walked on for 15-20 minutes and eventually we got to George Square where Alex triumphantly announced “There ya go pal, told ya I’d see ya back to yer digs ok”………….I suddenly felt guilty for doubting this man’s generosity and decency and I gave him a hearty handshake and cautious embrace as relief flooded through me and I walked the short distance to the Premier Inn. Cheers Alex, I wish you well!

Having just googled his name, I remember he told me he’d done time for armed robbery at several Glasgow bookmakers in 2009 and had fallen off the stand at an Old Firm game and amazingly escaped unhurt and google also revealed he’d told me the truth! So it was a bizarre end to another long day and night.

Boats and Buses Part 2

Everyone turned up anyhow for the journey home at 2pm the next day. Everyone was tired. Everyone wanted to get home. The bus journey became a chorus of Newry Boys and their “I love my wife Yes I do Yes I do” and the Pats fans singing abusive songs about Shels, Keith Fahey and Rovers. My own feeling on the Rovers songs was that I’d far sooner be seen with a “17 Leagues and 24 Cups” banner than a “Never Relegated” banner, so I was ok with the singing on the coach.

Shortly before the Newry Boys were dropped off, the umpteenth version of the “wife” song was started, to which Finbarr’s mate finally snapped “Well Fuck off back to her”, at which we all pissed ourselves.

Having boarded the first Luas of the day at 5.30am on Thursday, I was relieved to catch the last Luas of Saturday night and get home tired but happy and in one piece.

As always, everyone gave me so many laughs and magic moments and I want to thank Barry Elmes in particular for organising the buses and boat and to the driver who got us over and back superbly, trying to block out singing, clinking bottles and numerous piss stops. To everyone else, it was great travelling with yiz all as always. There really is nothing like an Ireland away trip.

All together now…………….”I LOVE MY WIFE, YES I DO YES I DO……………………”

Phelim Warren
17th November 2014.