Support systems for those abroad
Irish Times Article 8th June 2012
Thousands of Irish emigrants will watch the national team play Croatia on Sunday no matter what time it is in their part of the world. CIARA KENNY found out where they will be watching the games, and what supporting Ireland means to them.
VANCOUVER: Daniel Tinnelly
The massive increase in the number of Irish people settling in Vancouver in recent years has led to a growing appetite for Irish sports in the city, but there was no club or venue dedicated to Irish soccer before Daniel Tinnelly, a structural engineer who moved from Dublin to Canada in 2009, decided to address the issue late last year in anticipation of the Euro 2012 finals.
“I used to find it very difficult to find somewhere to watch the Irish football matches when I arrived in Vancouver first, even in the Irish bars,” he says. “If they were shown at all, you had to pay a $20 (€15.50) cover charge, to cover the bar’s pay-per-view subscriptions.”
With permission from the Football Association of Ireland, Tinnelly set up the Official FAI Supporters Club of Vancouver last December, with the aim of creating a big enough group of Irish fans to fill a pub, and ensure there would be a venue where every Irish soccer match would be screened live.
They have since teamed up with Mahony & Sons, an Irish bar at Burrard Landing in the city, which has now become the first FAI Supporters Bar of Vancouver. Every Irish match in the European Championships will be shown in the bar.
The first game on Sunday will be a family event, with face-painting, drinks promotions and a raffle, and a $5 (€3.90) donation at the door will be split between three Vancouver charities with Irish affiliations, the St Vincent de Paul, the Irish Benevolent Fund and the British Columbia Cancer Foundation.
“The venue has a capacity of 495 and we’re expecting a huge turnout on Sunday,” says Tinnelly. “Sports events like this play a huge role in bringing the Irish community together here. I have met a lot of people who are away from home for the first time, who may have come over on their own, and they’ll be able to walk in here and meet a whole host of new people. That’s what events like this are all about.”
SYDNEY: Gemma Callaghan
The Ireland-Croatia match kicks off at 4.45am on Monday in Sydney. Gemma Callaghan (23), who moved to Australia from Cabra in Dublin last year, plans to stay up with a group of friends to watch it in one of the city’s 24-hour bars.
“There’s a huge Irish crowd expected at Scruffy Murphy’s and the Cheers bar, where the matches will be shown,” she says. “It is a bank holiday here on the Monday, so everyone will be off work. There’s always great banter at Irish sports events, but because this is the biggest football match for the Irish team in a long time, it will be extra special. It is all everyone is talking about at the moment.”
Callaghan, who is a qualified secondary school teacher, now works for Taste Ireland, an online company importing goods such as Barry’s Tea, Club Orange and Tayto crisps for the Irish in Australia.
“I meet a lot of families through work who have moved over here recently, and the kids are all getting excited about waking up early in the morning to watch the games online,” she says. “Euro 2012 is something really positive that the whole Irish community can look forward to, a change from the doom and gloom that we are used to hearing from home.”
BOSTON: Declan Meighan
Boston publican Declan Meighan and his business partner Joe Dunne have been promoting the upcoming Irish matches since Ireland qualified for the Euros last November. They expect their two Irish bars, Lír and McGann’s, to be packed for all three games.
“We have a clock counting down the days to when it all kicks off, it is a really big deal among the Irish community in Boston,” Meighan says.
“We will have a great mix of people here to watch the matches. Lír is in a touristy area, so we’ll have lots of European visitors on each day, but both bars will be popular with the older Irish community for the Irish games, as well as the younger, more recent arrivals who have come to work for the big companies. We’ve had an influx of J1-ers coming in looking for work over the past week, and many of them will be in to watch the matches too.”
Meighan, who moved to Boston from Monkstown in Dublin in 1986, co-owns seven bars in the city, as well as the Front Lounge on Parliament Street in Dublin.
“The local hotels in Boston send their guests to Lír or McGann’s whenever there’s an Irish soccer match on, because there’s always a great atmosphere,” he says. “There are no fans in the world like the Irish soccer fans.”
LONDON: Declan Finnegan
Declan Finnegan, chairman of the Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters’ Club of London (RISSC), is one of about 20 London-based Irish who have been to every match the Irish team have played in the Euro 2012 campaign so far.
“We are really committed,” he says. “I was at the friendly in Budapest on Monday, flew back to London afterwards, and am heading off for Poland tomorrow in time for the first Ireland match on Sunday.”
The RISSC in London has been going since 1984. They currently have almost 500 members, 175 of whom are travelling to Poland for one, two or three of the group stage matches.
“We haven’t organised an official club trip this time because a lot of people wanted to do their own thing, flying, driving cars or camper vans, or taking the train or bus,” Finnegan says. “For those who can’t travel to Poland, there are plenty of Irish bars in London showing the matches, and they will gather together to watch them there.”
Finnegan has been living in London since 1971, and has been involved with the RISSC since 1989. “There are people who have been here longer than me in the club, and people who have only just arrived in the last year or so,” he says. “One of the strongest elements of the club membership is the second or third generation Irish, who are still die-hard Irish football fans. Some of them are more Irish than the Irish themselves.
“I wouldn’t miss the games in Poland for anything. We’ve booked our trip for 12 days, so if Ireland make it through to the next stage, we’ll be there supporting them all the way.”
NEW ZEALAND: Ciarán Lowney
When the Ireland-Croatia match kicks off on Sunday, Ciarán Lowney will be boarding a plane with his Kiwi wife and four-year-old son in Auckland, bound for Toronto in Canada where they will spend a few days before travelling to Ireland for the first time in seven years.
“When we qualified, I thought it would be perfect, that I would be home for all the Irish matches, but I’ll be on the plane for the first and in Toronto for the second, but we’ve already sussed out an Irish bar where we can watch the game there,” he says.
“I’m most looking forward to the game against Italy, which I’ll get to watch with my brother in Cork who I haven’t seen for years. I haven’t watched an Irish match in an Irish pub since the 1994 World Cup either, so travelling home and being home for the Euros makes the sporting event all the more special.”
The Irish community in Auckland will be watching too, but as the matches kick off at 6.45am, they will be celebrating over cups of tea rather than pints.
“The pubs will still open, even though they won’t be serving alcohol,” Lowney says. “When you are away from home, whether it be just for a few months or 20 years, any kind of sporting event becomes a much bigger deal, meeting other Irish people, and sharing that sense of Irish pride.”
Ciarán Lowney is involved with the Irish People Living in New Zealand social network.
This article appears in the Life & Culture section of The Irish Times 8th of June 2012, and on irishtimes.com.