itlaia 90

The phone rang at 6am. My housemate answered it, then screamed,

“Lads, some people didn’t turn up for their flight. If we go to the airport we can get to the match. Grab your passports, I’m phoning the taxi.”

“Great, right behind ya. Wait, I don’t have a passport”.

“Doesn’t matter, come on.”

I pulled on clean jeans, the Italia ’90 t-shirt with a cartoon of Kevin Sheedy and grabbed the £7 I had. And I got into the taxi with the two housemates. We got to the airport. Dawn, Alistair and I met with our friends who were part of the Students Union who had somehow managed to get onto a charter flight to Rome to see Ireland play Italy in the Worldcup. The airport was hiving. The whole island was in a state of craic since Ireland had qualified and was in a dreamlike smile since “we” put Romania out on penalties and Packie Bonnar became Ireland’s favourite son.

Dawn and Alistair, them being globe trotters, had passports. They got their tickets and were off. I stood looking at the girl on the Aer Lingus desk.

“I’ve no passport but I’m named on my mother’s passport from years ago.”

“Perfect. If it goes wrong do you look like your ma?”

“Well, she’s 5’2” blonde, pale with green eyes and I’m 5’7” brown eyes, hair and dark.”

“The photos are black and white, they won’t be looking, can you get the passport here?”

My mother lived in Tallaght. There was no M50 then. It was a bad road. But my mother listened to me talking a mile a minute on the phone, grabbed her passport and my 11 year old brother, jumped into her Renault 5 and made her way to the airport in half an hour.

The three of us ran up to the Aer Lingus desk.

“Your friends’ flight’s gone, I’m so sorry.”

We all stood. The woman on the desk was as wrecked as we were.

Her boss came over – “Hold on there are seats on Ray Treacy’s flight, you know Ray Treacy, used to play for Ireland, runs a travel company. He has a charter going out at 8.30. Jump onto that plane and we will ring over to your friends’ flight and they can meet you in Rome. (breaks into song) Olé, Olé, Olé”.

So off I went, with my mother’s passport, no money, knowing no one, like a singing lemming, onto a flight to Rome.

When I got to Rome there was no one to meet me. They mustn’t have got the message. I stood lost. No plan, no money, no ticket to the match.

A smiling man asked me was I alright. I quickly told him my chancer’s tale. He laughed stuck out his hand and said “Ray Treacy, pleased to meet you. I like your style.”

He put me onto his bus with a crowd from Mayo and handed me a ticket to the match. We drove around Rome, then went for a barbeque on a barge on a canal, where, it being on water, the city’s drink ban didn’t apply. We danced with Rome’s carabinieri, sighed when Toto Schillacci’s goal slipped past Packie and sang together ‘til we bust.

Singing for pride, and to thank that team for the mad craic they gave us all.

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