By Gary Ferry in Denmark
In Derry, it’s the taxi men who think they own the roads; in Denmark the roads, footpaths and grass verges all belong to kamikaze cyclists.
Seven times…SEVEN times…in the space of a day, there was almost one less Derry City fan in the world as one of myself, Dee Curran, Dermot Liddy or Kevin Moore was almost poleaxed by a not-so friendly Swede or Dane, who don’t even ring a bell to let you know that you are going to get ploughed into.
In picking up a bottle of empty Fanta which had spilled from my grip in the middle of Copenhagan, I was inches from being massacred by a Danish mammy who was not for moving. Like a scene from a live action car chase, I had no idea of my impending doom, until Liddy saved me with the squeal; ’Gary, you’re about to get minced’. The man saved my life.
When Derry City reach Europe, there’s always the anticipation, the build-up, with no idea where we will be headed until the draw gives us about four minutes to book our flights before the prizes skyrocket. The cheapest way for those with semi-tolerant partners and children was Tuesday to Friday, with four city stops in between.
Starting in Derry on Tuesday morning, we moved to Dublin for the flight before landing in Copenhagen at 11pm. By midnight we were in Malmo, as pries for a hotel in Denmark were around €2000 because of some huge European conference which coincides with City’s first leg against FC Midtjylland.
Switching borders led to some currency rows between messers Liddy and Curran with both in deep debate about which country they were in, what day it was, and how much 5,000 Swedish Kroner converted to compared to a pint of Carlsberg in the Phoenix Bar.
Usually on these European trips, a jaunt around the city finds errant candy Stripe fans milling about the closest bar they can find. But in Malmo, whose football team once had Zlatan on their books, there is nothing to do. Granted, it was after midnight on a Tuesday, but you could have heard a pin drop, and there was nothing for it for us to retire to a fancy bachelor pad apartment, where we were soon joined by three other City fans, Kevin McDaid, Kevin McLaughlin and Declan Callaghan, who were equally as frustrated that Malmo was absolutely dead.
It didn’t improve in the daylight, with all seven City fans in Sweden all escaping as quickly as they could to Copenhagen, ten minutes over the border. Copenhagen was much more sociable, but with the home of Midtjylland, Herning, over a three hour car ride away, City fans remained thin on the ground. With fans coming from the Cook Islands, from Hamburg, from Billund, from London and all other sorts of crazy stops, the only time fans will be guaranteed to join together is at the MCH Stadium tonight ahead of the game.
Allegedly, Herning, home of tonight’s opponents, is about as active as Muff, so the action is elsewhere until game time. There have even been City fans, grown men at that, who have demanded to go to Legoland just to pass the time, whilst others, not so keen, sit in the car and huff.
It’s all been building up to the main event, and while it’s been a quiet one so far, it should become much livelier on the streets of Herning today.
Drive 105 have been broadcasting live in the build up to the game, and all the talk is of Barry McNamee, an away goal, their 6 foot 7’ striker and ways to stop him. The best we can come up with so far is putting Nicky Low on the shoulders of Aaron Barry and taking him out with a flying clothesline when the referee is distracted.
Either way, not one being seems to think Derry City will keep a clean sheet…except Mr. Liddy who was there when Derry beat Gothenburg on their own patch eleven years ago. It can happen again he keeps telling us, and as he is best friends with Father Chris, he may have a direct line to Himself. To get a result against this crowd tonight, Derry may need Divine Intervention, or a Lazarus-like recovery from Barry McNamee. Either way it will be eventful, and there will be a small army of Derry City fans screaming themselves hoarse all the way, from first whistle to last.
Never forget 2006. In 2017 it could all happen again. The sleepy village of Herning will be anything but come 7pm this evening.
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