And they’re off! Among the hundreds of Donegal supporters heading to Poland to cheer on the Boys in Green in the European Championships, few of them will be enjoying the comforts on the road as the small contingent from Cappry, Ballybofey, who set out yesterday in a luxury motorhome that’s set to travel through six different countries before arriving at its destination in Poznan.
Family and friends gathered at the Roadhouse Bar just outside Ballybofey to wave a bon voyage to the five football fans who will meet up with two other locals at the other end of the long trip.
Driver Michael McDermott, his son Stephen, Seamus Doherty, Jamie Doherty and John McLaughlin, were catching the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead last night before travelling on to the English port of Dover for another sea excursion to Calais. From the French port they’ll make their way to Belgium and Germany where they hope to stop off in Berlin.
“We’re planning on visiting the Brandenburg Gate while there. Berlin’s only about three hours from Poznan,” said Michael.
The group envisage arriving in the Polish city at around 10pm. tonight. They’ll be meeting up with two other Cappry residents, Darren O’Leary and Ross Doherty who are flying out tomorrow to Poznan where Ireland play their opening Group C fixture against Croatia on Sunday.
Draped on the side of the massive 20 foot Knaus motorhome was an Irish banner from the World Cup of 1994 and autographed into the fabric are the names of some of the stars of the team back then including Packie Bonner, Roy Keane, Denis Irwin, Niall Quinn and Mick McCarthy.
“I got them to sign the flag at their training camp in Florida,” recalls Michael.
And the young supporters and family members present yesterday also carried a banner bearing the words ‘Wolf Tone & Co. on Tour’ - a reference to John McLaughlin who will be exercising his vocal chords during the trek as part of the on-board entertainment. All of the travelling fans have links with Cappry Rovers and another banner signalled this.
The impressive motorhome will be berthed at the Carlsberg site in Poznan with the drink manufacturers also sponsoring a similar site in Gdansk where Ireland play their second match against Spain on Thursday.
“We’ve brought a tent as well so we’re very well equipped,” insisted Michael.
So will they be staying on if Ireland progress from the group stages? “No, it’ll be home,” said a determined Stephen, a prominent performer in the Donegal midfield of some years back and in the colours of Glenfin.
He and his fellow fans will, of course, miss Donegal’s Ulster Championship clash with Derry on Saturday week. “No doubt we’ll find some high stool for it,” laughs Stephen.
So how about a European Championship and All-Ireland double this year? “Aye, that would be nice!.”
Meanwhile, the huge cheer that went up from both the travelling fans and those there to wave them off suggests that the Irish team might be venturing even further than the motorhome.