AS IRISH FANS prepare to break out the retro jerseys and dust off their inflatable hammers, the country’s biggest supporters group have been putting the groundwork in behind the scenes.
Originally founded as a fanzine in 2005, You Boys In Green or YBIG, has grown as a community of football lovers and today boasts 5,000 registered members on its website, ybig.ie.
An ever-present at Ireland’s fixtures at home and on the road, the foundations were laid for the trip to Poland once Ireland’s place in Group C was confirmed back in December. Three months later, a team set off to Poznan and Gdansk on a reconnaissance mission.
“We were over in February and met loads of representatives during the stay,” Ger Keville says. “They were bending over backwards to help us anyway they could and I predict they will be the same with fans in June.”
The itinerary included a visit to the two venues Giovanni Trapattoni’s side will line out in, meeting the mayor of Poznan and holding discussions which resulted in them securing affordable rates for the Carlsberg FanCamps.
Checking out the social hot spots was also one of their objectives, and unsurprisingly, an Irish pub originally named The Dubliner comes highly recommended.
The YBIG forum, which received its 900,000th post on Wednesday, is a great way to keep up-to-speed on the latest news and developments regarding the Irish team, their upcoming opponents, trips abroad and the latest terrace chants.
The finer details about getting to Poland and what to do when you arrive are being ironed out on the site and Keville explains that it’s a handy way to stay in touch:
The great thing about the forum is that it gives you the edge. There’s a real community spirit too and many friendships are built on YBIG.”
One recent event organised was the Paul McGrath Golf Classic, which was held at Luttrellstown Castle Resort last month with the aim of raising funds for what Keville calls charities that are “personal” to the site’s members – Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, Disabled People of Longford and Torun’s Children’s Hope Hospice.
Torun is a city those travelling to Euro 2012 may have heard of as it sits halfway between Poznan and Gdansk and therefore is a prime location to stay in during Ireland’s campaign. The proceeds raised by YBIG will be presented to the hospice next month.
They also regularly play matches against fans of opposing teams. “It’s a good way to make contacts and we have a laugh,” he says. “There is one arranged for the Bosnia game.”
Speaking to TheScore last week, author of ‘The Irish Fan’s Guide to Euro 2012’ Damien Moran called the several thousand Ireland followers’ imminent descent on Poland as “the perfect match”.
How does Keville think our hosts will manage and would he be optimistic for those heading over without tickets?
“The stadiums look great and are condensed which bodes well for the atmosphere. The FAI have been back and forth regularly and everything should run smoothly.
One thing I will say to those on the lookout is to keep an eye on the ticket portal because it has reopened. Otherwise, just get over there. If you have to pay a couple of quid extra, so be it.”
In 2009, the group set up the ’12th man’ singing section in the South Stand at Lansdowne Road in conjunction with the FAI and it has proved a roaring success. While restrictions on the buying of tickets means they won’t have a tightly-knit group together for the games with Croatia, Spain and Italy, he believes it will matter little.
“You can’t get a bulk of tickets sitting in the one place but I’m sure everyone is going to want to be part of a singing session on the matchdays.”
Keville, who is also editor of The Irish Daily Star’s weekly junior soccer pullout Target, has a couple more busy weeks as two YBIG fanzines are scheduled before the tournament gets underway.
“After that it will be feet up, beer in hand and the Euros here we come.”