Hailstones and heroes: Brian Dougherty’s Euro 2016 blog
McAuley and McGinn and June 16th will go down in the annals of history – now mentioned in the same breadth as Blanchflower, Armstrong and Healy.
The day begun with another five-hour car journey to the beautiful city of Lyon as we said good-bye to Nice. Once again the GAWA took over the town square ignoring the official fanzone and their 10 euro pints of beer.
New visitors I bumped into included David Cooke formerly from Newbuildings and now living in Tampa and the Buchanans from sunny Donemana.
Fortunately we were able to flag down a local to make the 30-minute journey to the ground (yes another impressive stadium built in the middle of nowhere).
He was in tears as we handed him a free spare ticket to the game and of course the fans were in good humour and voice as ground filled up.
Had great difficulty locating my brother Alwyn and nephew Zach to get them their tickets so we got to our seats just in time for kick-off.
They too had to drive from Nice after the debacle of the cancelled bus from La Bueme.
The rest as they is history – suffice to say that it was quite simply the best sporting occasion I have been at. The atmosphere was electric. A much better performance with goals, tension, thunder-bolts and lighting, very, very frightening but the ultimate euphoria of a last minute nerve settler.
Again it was tinged with sadness as a fan collapsed and died behind us.
What has been increasingly noticeable has been the number of England fans who seem now to be tagging on to us, both at the games and in the bars afterwards.
Locals have begun to welcome us with open arms, claiming we are the best fans at the tournament. They can’t be far wrong as the craic and camaraderie has been mighty.
Now for a night in Lyon as I say good-bye to Willis, Philsy and Scotty Doc and along with new recruit Graeme Doc make the six-hour train journey to Paris.
To my shame I have taken nothing in culturally so far, so am planning for a couple of days without beer and baguettes at Le Bette Forde clinic.
Another friend Bryan Hastings arrives for the third leg on Sunday evening so time to recuperate.
Don’t want this thing to end!