He has followed the Irish team to every corner of Europe and shared the joys and agonies of every supporter along the way and tomorrow will see Letterkenny man, Gerry Meehan, board a plane at Dublin Airport for a direct flight to Poznan where Trapattoni’s Terriers open their European Championship Finals appearance against Croatia on Sunday evening.
As he and his two travelling companions, Eric White and Jimmy Barclay, underwent late fitness tests yesterday, he’ll be hoping the team avoid the collapse that befell Ireland on his last visit to the Polish ground twenty-one years ago.
“We were 3-1 up against Poland in a Euro qualifier and we ended up drawing the game 3-3 which just about destroyed our hopes of making it to the Finals of ‘92.”
Well known for his involvement with Letterkenny Rovers, Gerry has also been capped on three occasions at youth international level. The Boy in Green turned into the Man in Green and he still wears the shirt with pride, albeit this time as one of the team’s most devoted followers.
“We’re flying directly from Dublin to Poznan on Friday where we will spend five nights. Then on Wednesday we’re getting a train to Gdansk for the game against Spain on the Thursday.”
Their train is scheduled to arrive in at 2.30 p.m. - at the same scheduled time that a flight will land at the Gdansk airport some ten kilometres away, bearing two other Letterkenny Rovers and Irish stalwarts, Stephen ‘Dotsy’ Doherty and Tadhg Culbert.
“We just might meet up with them!,” laughs Gerry.
Stephen won a prize for two in a recent Keadue Rovers draw - not the first time the club has been linked with a major footballing tournament given Packie Bonner’s past exploits - which included flights, accomodation and tickets for the matches against Spain and Italy.
“I’ve been all over Europe and have seen the good and the bad,” says Gerry who recounts in particular that infamous play-off in Paris when Mons. Thierry Henry handed France a qualifying lifeline for the last World Cup. “I was behind the goals at the opposite end of the field when it happened and while I couldn’t see the actual incident, I could see there was some controversy about it with some of the Irish players surrounding the referee. Then I got a text from big Neil Cullen back in Letterkenny who was watching it on T.V. and told me that Henry had got away with not one handball but two.”
All that’s in the past, however, and now it’s all systems go for Euro 2012. And Gerry has been brushing up on his Polish to help him breach the language barrier.
“Just a bit of basic stuff, nothing serious. Sentences like ‘which platform does the train leave from’, that sort of thing, though both Stephen and Tadhg have iPhones which can translate these things automatically.”
So can Ireland get their Euro Finals campaign off to the perfect start? “There’s always a chance though Croatia will be a tough proposition.”
But then again they won’t have half of the Letterkenny Rovers administration team backing them...
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