From: (Gary Spain)
Subject: WC Trip report ***LONG****
Date: 9 Aug 1994 13:57:46 GMT

I couldn't wait for the World Cup to start.  Three weeks holiday in the U.S.
and the best football team we'd ever had.  The holiday lived up to 
expectations but unfortunately Ireland's performance did not.

Thursday June 16th and I was off to New York.  As usual Aer Fungus gave great
service on the transatlantic flight.  I was staying with a mate - Mike, for a 
few days in New York and I found his place without too much trouble.  Mike was
sharing a one bedroomed apartment with 4 others for the summer.  I was given
the bed that night.  Some of the guys headed off to a Sawdoctors concert.  
Friday dawned bright and sunny (wow that's a surprise) and as the lads headed 
for work I made an early start on playing tourist.  I was quickly on American
time as I only tend to suffer when going home.  The Statue of Liberty, Ellis 
Island, Statten Island ferry, Wall street and I was still beating the queues.
I met 2 lads from Galway on the ferry and we walked up to Wall St.  I went
for a look at the stock exchange while they decided to sample the local beer
and watch Germany on TV for the afternoon.  I saw the Digital stock tumbling
before heading for the World Trade Centre.  $5 and a 2 hour wait before I got a
great view of the Manhattan skyline.  Plans to see the Empire State Building 
and  St. Patrick's Cathedral were shelved as I had to be back for 5.30 with
the keys to the apartment.  I had my own tickets but another mate - Paddy, 
arrived that day with no tickets.  A half promise of one ticket in Ireland a 
week before meant a trip back downtown.  The guy I was supposed to meet hadn't 
arrived yet.  Mike and I waited for a while but I ended up leaving a
handwritten note along with the earlier phone messages.  Then it was off to the 
Dublin House for a few drinks and to meet some people on the Internet.  It
was great to put some faces to email addresses.  Spain v South Korea was on
TV followed by the basketball finals.  After watching Korea's incredible
comeback we ignored the TV.  Minutes later I heard about OJ Simpson for the
first time.  The locals were demanding silence as a 15mph car chase was
shown live on TV.  The station stopped showing the basketball yet nobody
cared.  I eventually staggered home to bed.  A 2.30am phone call informed me
that there were 2 Category III tickets available at face value.  Mike and Paddy
would get to see the game.  The other lads were going to try outside.  Tickets
were changing hands for about $150 which was well down on the prices quoted
a week earlier.

Saturday morning I collected the tickets and we did a walking tour of Manhattan
looking for tickets for the other guys.  None turned up.  We did get to meet
and shake hands with Albert Reynolds much to the amusement of the secret
servicemen.  After walking around for over an hour in the heat we headed back
to the Port Authority and got a bus out to the stadium.  The reports
claimed that the Italians would outnumber the Irish by as much as 10 to 1 but
everywhere I looked it was green, white and orange.  There were plenty of
tickets on sale in the car park.  After all the hype the touts were taking a
hammering.  Inside the stadium and where were the Italians?  The Irish were
everywhere.  The heat was oppressive.  I bought 3 litres of water en route to
the game but it was long since gone.  I spent another $20 on diet cokes through
the game.  You weren't allowed bring drinks into the stadium but you could buy
them inside at a small 1000% markup.  

My seat was high up behind the goal Ireland were attacking.  We started well 
and the Italians looked uncomfortable.  I had confidently predicted a 0-0
victory beforehand.  10 minutes gone, enter Ray Houghton.  What a chip.
Remember Stuttgart!!!  The rest of the game seemed like an eternity.  It
was almost as long as Stuttgart.  It was a great performance.  We were
comfortably the better team.  Sheridan hit the bar, Packie saved us.  The
blind fatherless Dutch creature in the middle decided to play 5 minutes of 
injury time despite the fact that there were no stoppages.  The final whistle 
was a relief.  We'd done it.  We'd beaten Italy.  The bus back to New York 
was just heaven.  All the lads I was staying with had got tickets.  We met up 
in the bus queue.  One guy got a free ticket 30 minutes before kickoff.  All
the usual favourites plus a few new ones "Rayo, Rayo, Rayo Houghton sent Italy
home" (We didn't get to sing that one again).  "Roberto Who??", "Pasadena
here we come", "Boring boring Baseball".  I had to catch a 7am flight out of
LaGuardia (it seemed a good idea in December) and decided to stay up all night 
and just get on the plane.  I'm not sure what pubs I was in that night but I
did catch a couple of hours kip before getting up at 4.30am.  The cab driver
was Italian.  He'd seen the game and was totally disgusted.  He then asked
was Ireland very violent and after I'd explained that there was little
trouble in the Republic and even Northern Ireland was much safer than New York
he pointed out that 6 people had been shot dead watching the game in a bar.
I assumed he meant New York and didn't discover it was in Loughinisland until
later that day.

I booked my internal flights with USAir and as Nassau is considered part of 
continental USA on their schedule I headed for the Bahamas for a few days.
A chance conversation at a wedding a few months earlier resulted in 6 others
making the trip on the same flight.  We had to fly to Philly, then Tampa
and then Nassau.  We had left New York where most of the citizens didn't even 
realise the world cup was on.  The biggest sporting event of the weekend was
the Gay Olympics.  Three of the guys were sitting together, dressed of course
in green jerseys and football shorts.  On leaving the plane at Tampa, Jim
(whose wife and son were also on the flight) started chatting to the couple in 
front.  "We're just down from New York," said the woman, "we got married
yesterday and we're off on our honeymoon."  "We were in New York too", says
Jim.  "We're just back from the Gay Olympics."  "Oh, we'd figured that all 
right," said the woman.  It still brings a smile to my face and a scowl to Jim's.
Upon arriving in Nassau we discovered you couldn't get in without accommodation.
The immigration official held my passport while I tried the Tourist Desk in the
airport.  A "cheap" hotel was arranged, $57 per room per night.  Then I
discovered that USAir had destroyed my case.  I had bought a Samsonite pullman
case on a previous visit and the baggage handlers managed to destroy it.
They did accept responsibility but wanted me to tape it up until I got back
to Tampa.  After long discussions I was eventually given a temporary 
replacement and they promised to repair or replace my bag within 10 days.

After New York the Bahamas was a welcome break.  Three days on a tropical
island, what a way to live.  There was a public beach just outside the Hotel
with crystal clear water and I'm sure the sand was the same as that on the
private beaches in the $1000 a night Hotels.  For $80 the seven of us got a
tour around the island in a limo.  Our driver brightened up considerably and 
was much more friendly when he discovered we were staying in El Greco (El
cheapo Hotel) instead of the Sheraton.  We got the warts and all tour which
included the luxury villas and the slums.  We ended up on Paradise Island which
is a gamblers heaven.  I gambled the princely sum of 25c on the slots, lost 
my quarter and then went to watch the American tourists play Blackjack and 
Roulette.  So this is how the other half lives.  The nights were spent in
an Australian bar with a big screen that served decent food and had the world
cup games on a big screen.  I only got to see the night games although some
of the lads watched Brazil v Russia while Bren and I headed for Coral World.
The lads had booked a house in Orlando for a week.  I bunked in for the Tuesday
night.  My girlfriend, Kitty, was due into Orlando on Wednesday.  Tuesday night 
we chanced upon a steakhouse which was showing the games on a big screen.
Nigeria's hammering of Bulgaria was followed by a singsong into the early
hours.  We eventually separated at 3.30am having been told 30 minutes earlier 
that the place should have closed at 2am.  We eventually got a Taxi but only 
after the local cops wanted to know what we were up to.  They were just
getting used to seeing drunk Paddies wandering around in the early hours.
My uncle and grandmother had made friends with a couple in Titusville - Al
and Nancy and had kept in regular contact over the years.  I had met them 
last year when they visited Ireland and Kitty and I were invited to stay there.
We were very welcome and had a great time there.  Al had saved all the world
cup snippets from the local paper.  In Orlando they actually realised that the 
world cup was on.  The local paper had a 12 page colour supplement every day
up until July 5th.  We spent Thursday at the Kennedy Space centre and lying
on Cocoa Beach.  There were a few Irish fans in the KSC but we were away from
the centre of things.

Friday morning meant an early start for the Mexican game.  The park and ride
shuttle buses had been a disaster for the opening game in Orlando but
this time they ran like clockwork.  The portaloos were a nice touch but have 
you ever been in a portaloo when it's 95F outside?  We have hedges for that
at home.  The police in the parking lot informed us we wouldn't be allowed
to bring our water on the bus not to mind into the stadium.  The bus company 
charged $10 per person for the trip (apparently it's $3 for the American 
football games) but they weren't selling water.  We compromised and brought one
plastic bottle but we weren't searched.  You could buy a gallon of drinking
water for 80c in the supermarkets.  You could buy a very small bottle inside
the stadium for $2.25.  Italy was just as expensive but at least you were
allowed to bring in your own water.  Anyway we covered the bottle in a towel
and got it inside the stadium.  Tickets weren't as readily available here as
they had been for the Italy game.  I didn't see any for less than $100
although I heard of people paying less.  The Mexicans are almost as fanatical 
as the Irish.  It was 110F inside the stadium and watching the game was an
ordeal for the Irish.  213 people were carried out during the game and charged
$400 for the medical attention.  I met a guy a week later that was carried out 
4 minutes into the game.  I assume that most of the casualties were Irish
although it was a little cold for the Mexicans.  The less said about the game
the better but it was a tactical disaster.  Aldo's goal lifted the spirits.
If we were going to lose at least we were still top of the group.  I
suffered during the game despite drinking litres and litres of water and coke.

We still had a good party in Church Street.  I was drinking water however as I
had to drive back to Titusville.  The Irish, Mexcians, Dutch, Belgians,
Brazilians and Americans partied into the early hours.  We had to leave at 
11pm.  Next time....We just relaxed on Saturday, went to the beach for a
couple of hours, did some shopping.  On Sunday we went to the Magic Kingdom.
Al and Nancy had gotten complimentary tickets for Disney and needless to say
it was a wonderful day.  I think it's wasted on kids or maybe it should be
restricted to kids of all ages over 21.  I'd been to Disneyland in California
before but this is a different experience.  I had to leave the house at 5.30am
to get a 7am flight to NY the following day.  Kitty stayed behind hoping we'd
be back to Orlando for the 2nd round.  I did some more sightseeing in NY that
day getting to the Empire State  building and St. Patrick's Cathedral.  Then it
was back to the Dublin House to see some of Germany v Korea, grab something to
eat and back to the Dublin House for a few more drinks.  The 5am start had
taken its toll and I left sometime between 11pm and midnight.  8 bottles
of beer and half a gallon of pineapple juice (from the local supermarket)
provided ample liquid refreshment.  

All the guys in the apartment in Manhattan had gotten tickets again.  They were
readily available this time and even on sale in the box office.  They were
selling second round tickets for the NY game in the box office.  I was
tempted but I'd already bought 2 Orlando tickets in April so I decided to wait
until afterwards.  I met up with Tony, Jim and co again before the game.  Most
were going home.  Tony and Jim were staying if we went to NY or Boston but
were likely to go home if it was LA or Orlando.  I was hoping for Orlando as
I was flying back there that night come what may.  Great atmosphere, awful
game.  Who cares we were in the second round and it was Orlando.  There was
a sense of anticlimax afterwards as most people were faced with going home or
a very expensive extra week.  I was rushing for a 7pm flight although I made
this comfortably.  I wasn't the only Irish fan on the plane although the 
others were flying home that week.  Kitty was waiting in the airport with the
car and she had no idea of the score.  Belgium (as it looked at the time) on
Monday and we had tickets.  I didn't point out that the only 2 Irish games
she'd ever seen (Spain 93, Mexico 94) were our only 2 competitive defeats in 
4 years.

We had planned to drive to New Orleans for a few days on Wednesday but this was
quickly shelved.  I was shattered and in no form for driving 650 miles.  We
decided to go down to the Florida Keys instead via Orlando.  We planned to
leave Orlando at 3pm and head south but ended up staying the night in a
motel there and did lots of shopping.  For once I actually enjoyed shopping.
I bought a lot of clothes at prices far less than at home.  It was only
that night that we discovered that Holland were to be our opponents on
Monday.  This didn't help my mood.  Still we can beat them.  We headed south
on Thursday and stayed in Florida City.  2 steaks, coleslaw,side salad, one
coffee and a large pitcher of beer (about 4 pints) for $17 ($20 incl tip)
was the best bargain we had.  The food was also very good although the decor
left a lot to be desired.  The only downside was that the TV was showing
baseball instead of Argentina v Bulgaria.  We got to Key Largo early on Friday
and found a Motel for $83 per night  which is a total ripoff but it was the 
4th of July weekend.  The cockroaches stayed free which is probably why there
were hundreds of them.  The keys were well worth visiting though and the drive 
down to Key West is very picturesque.  I tried to contact USAir but spent a
fortune ringing Orlando without getting baggage.  They wouldn't put me through
on the 1-800 number.  I eventually got through to the local office and was 
told to ring the Orlando office on Tuesday morning.  We headed back north
on Saturday and stopped off at West Palm Beach.  We got back to Al and Nancy 
at 11pm.  We just relaxed on Sunday and met Tony and Julie, their daughter
and son-in-law.  They live in Orlando and offered to let us stay there the
night of the game.  Kitty was going home on Tuesday and I was either going
to New York or Dallas.  Dallas would be expensive but I was hoping Tony and
Jim would be at the game and we could hire out a Uhaul for a one way rental.
It was the 4th of July and we were playing in the second round of the world
cup.  Now for some real fireworks.  It turned out to be a damp squid.  The
day went all wrong.  We failed to smuggle water into the ground.  I gave the
cop an earful about the day they celebrate FREEDOM and independence yet you
cannot bring water into a stadium so they can rip you off inside at a 1000% 
markup.  Even the F.A.I. haven't thought of this one.....yet.  He just
laughed.  It's the American way.  American tourists have been coming to
Europe for years and getting ripped off.  This was a great opportunity to
get revenge and they took it.  Tony and Jim were not outside Gate B as
arranged (they were in Limerick and Cork respectively).  Tickets were
available for half price outside.  The Irish were not here in great numbers.
I rang home trying to rearrange my return flight if we won. If we win today
can you get me on the Sunday night flight out of JFK.  I was due to fly home
on Wednesday night but how could I go home if we were playing Brazil in
Dallas.  Workwise I was okay unless we reached the semis.  And then there was
the match....

We were outplayed in the first 20 minutes.  Bergkamp's goal may have been a
bad error by Phelan but given the pressure it was inevitable.  We seemed
to be getting back into it when the second goal arrived.  A brave second
half display was never going to be enough.  The Dutch already had their minds
on Brazil.  This defeat was a real sickener.  The tactics were a disaster.
No excuses about the heat this time.  In fact it was quite cool.  My mind
went back to Poznan 91.  This was worse.  It was a disappointing end to a
promising campaign.  We could and should have done much better.  Jack got it
wrong.  The team didn't perform.  Holland played well.  No point in sacking
the manager though.  We don't have many alternatives and things have improved
a lot since the days of Hand and Giles.  I bet Dunphy will love this one....
Kitty is expecting a phone call from the Latvian FA offering her a free trip
to our game in September.  Three games and our only three competitive defeats.

The Church St. party was still a great night.  What the hell one last bash.
We piled into a bar to cheer on the U.S. but they never had a chance v
Brazil.  The Dutch were cheering for Brazil but I guess they were just taking
the piss.  We met up with an American couple who had just discovered the
game.  They put up a better fight than we did but it was the same result.
Everytime I went into the Gents there were Dutch inside singing "If you
hate the fucking Germans clap your hands."  The Irish didn't join in, no
distant memories of Stuttgart, Hannover and Gelsenkirchen, now the English....
We sang and partied however and wished them all the best against Brazil.
Brazil may be everybody's favourite team but a bond has developed between the 
Dutch and Irish fans and everyone wanted Holland to win the world cup now.

More shopping on Tuesday morning and I finally got in touch with USAir.  "Sorry
sir, we have no record of your claim"  Then they called Nassau who had been
trying to get in touch with me.  I had given them the address and telephone
number where I was staying of course but that wasn't enough.  Anyway it had
a happy ending as they had a new case for me in Orlando.  I dropped Kitty
to Orlando airport for her flight home and then drove to Tampa to catch a
flight back to New York.  Due to traffic, trouble finding a gas station,
delay in returning the car and having to repack and return my loan bag, I
checked in 13 minutes before the scheduled departure.  I was warned that I
may lose my bags in transit but they arrived safely.  I got into NY late.
Michael had been in LA for the weekend and came back that morning on the red 
eye before going to work.  Neither of us were in much form for heading out.

I wandered around downtown Manhattan on Wednesday morning but I headed out
early to the airport.  The trip ended on a sour note as Aer Fungus had sent the 
Jumbo down to Orlando to bring home the team.  They used a charter company -
Tower Air crew and plane on their scheduled flight to Shannon.  This was
reminiscent of a 1970's charter to Benidorm.  The letter of complaint has 
already been sent but I don't expect much.  The worst part was sitting on the
plane for 2 hours at the gate with no air conditioning.  They insisted they
couldn't turn on the air conditioning until the plane was airborne.  It was
of course a cynical attempt to save money.  I've used cheap charters before
and can tolerate delays and poor service but Aer Fungus charged full fare.
They also ripped off fans who changed their flights.  It's normally #85 to
change a transatlantic flight but it was #180 on this occasion.  They also
charged #100 above the standard APEX fare for the world cup.  Thankfully I
was booked to fly home on July 6th anyway so I wasn't caught for the #180.
On the plane I got to see the Irish Press and just like the American papers 
OJ Simpson was mentioned in a small paragraph on Page 14.  Unlike the
American papers he was not mentioned in every line of the previous 13 pages.

It was a great holiday with mainly fond memories.  You cannot help but enjoy
a holiday in the U.S. It was a good world cup but unfortunately we can take
little (if any) of the credit.  The Italian game was probably
the best performance ever by an Irish side.  We beat a quality side deservedly
and comprehensively.  When it mattered though we couldn't do the same to the
Dutch.  This was much more disappointing than Germany or Italy.  In Germany
we beat England, outplayed the Soviets and almost knocked out the best team
in the tournament.  It was disappointing to lose to a late offside goal but 
the better side won the game.  In Italy we did as well as we could have hoped.
Italy were a better side and we went out with heads held high.  This time
expectations were higher.  We had a better side but failed to deliver.  A
top class striker is desperately needed but even more important is the courage
to play the type of football that we showed we can.  

The memories of the Giants stadium covered in green white and orange will
live forever.  The thousands of Irish fans who came from every corner of the
globe and somehow got tickets made it an occasion to remember.  Even Bishop
Casey showed up in Orlando.  The madness in Manhattan, the magic of Disney,
the beauty of the Bahamas and the whole atmosphere of just having a good
time are my abiding memories.  It was a great holiday.  And now for 
England 96.......  

       Gary Spain, DEC, Galway, Ireland   -

  On being a football fan: "I am aware of the downside to this wonderful 
  facility that men have: they become repressed, they fail in their 
  relationships with women,their conversation is trivial and boorish, they 
  find themselves unable to express their emotional needs, they cannot relate
  to their children, and die lonely and miserable. But you know, what the hell?"
								   Nick Hornby