The sound of a couple of hundred voices singing their hearts out to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on Sunday evening was somehow a fitting close to Ireland’s Euro 2016 aspirations as spontaneous sing-songs broke out in bars around the city, easing Ireland supporters through the pain of their dashed hopes following their 2-1 loss to France.
“Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters”, sang the painted and be-wigged in Deep South’s beer garden, which was just one of the many packed-out Cork venues to screen the match.
On Washington Street the pubs spilled out onto the street well before the match started, and the atmosphere in Rearden’s bar went from charged and hopeful to a deafening and disbelieving roar when Brady’s surprise second minute penalty put Ireland in the lead. “Am I dreaming?” one fan shouted.
By half time, Gary Dowling and his friends were still hopeful that Ireland could hold their lead.
Gary was back in Cork for the France match having followed the Boys in Green to Paris, Bordeaux and Lille on their extraordinary Euro 2016 journey.
“Of course I didn’t want to have to leave but the money ran out,” he said.
“On my way home, my flight was delayed for three hours and I was sitting there thinking, ‘Jesus, I hope it’s been cancelled’.” Even though the beer was flowing and spirits were high, Gary said nothing could compare to the atmosphere in the Grand Stade Lille Métropole when Robbie Brady scored against Italy. “That was an immense moment,” he said.
“The noise in the stadium was phenomenal; it actually made me dizzy.” Outside in the Rearden’s Fanzone beer garden, the energy of several hundred Ireland supporters was nearly met by the jubilant jumping of a few small knots of France supporters when Griezmann equalised for France 12 minutes into the second half.
After Griezmann’s second goal and the Ireland team’s reduction to 10 men following a red card for defender Shane Duffy, hopes began to fade. Outside Preacher’s bar on Washington St, Tom Greary was assessing Ireland’s rapidly receding chances. “If they manage to win now, I swear I’ll go to work in my diddly-idle from tomorrow,” he said, gesturing at his tightly curled tricolour wig.
However, the Ireland supporters kept the dream alive and the mood buoyant in the face of the French turnaround, cheering right up to the end. Sandy Adam, a French football fan living in Cork, said that the Irish fans lived up to their reputation as the heroes of the 2016 Euros, showing good grace and humour despite the reversal of fortunes they experienced in the game.
“They had a good start but I knew it would be difficult for them to hold their lead for the rest of the game,” he said. “The Irish fans are all so friendly and nice, even when they are losing.”
“Look, we lost in style,” one woman said as the whistle blew. Back at Rearden’s, fans broke into song, belting out “Stand up for the Boys in Green,” with a palpable sense of pride for having come so far and for having lost to such admirable opponents.
All over the city, fans proved what the Euros have already taught the rest of Europe: that even when we don’t win at the football, we win at the spontaneous sing-along.
For those who found the atmosphere in bars too rowdy, The Opera House, in conjunction with 96fm, was hosting a family-friendly screening of the match on their cinema screen.
Although the seats of the 1,000 capacity venue weren’t full, organiser Ronan Leonard was happy with the turn-out. The gentler, less beer-fuelled atmosphere, along with a children’s play area complete with retro-football video games, face-painting and colouring-in competitions featuring some of Ireland’s sporting legends made a perfect place for families to watch the match.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved