Ducks, Pubs and Bucket Lists: Caoimhin Reilly reports from St. Petersburg

Thu, Nov 03 2016

Zenit St. Petersburg fans at Tallaght Stadium Credit: Michael P Ryan

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By Caoimhin Reilly in St Petersburg

 

St. Petersburg in November. With Dundalk. That’s crazy. It’s scarcely believable but here we are.

 

Yet again Dundalk fans have travelled across Europe in their numbers, filling the bars and hotels around the city centre and creating the type of adventure that you would associate with Irish international teams competing at a major championship.

 

The Dundalk family has once more come together. From Iceland to Belarus, from Warsaw to Alkmaar, the numbers travelling have increased dramatically, one trip after another is being called ‘the best ever.’

 

This one has all the makings of a trip of a lifetime though because the Lilywhites are in the back garden of one of the wealthiest clubs in European football and playing under the gaze of a city steeped in history.

 

The architecture, the buildings and the bridges. Clanbrassil Street has a long way to go.

 

Coming out through Amsterdam yesterday myself and a comrade were baffled at how small of a travelling contingent from Louth’s Oriel Province there were.

 

I was reliably informed though that Dundalk were not just taking over Europe on the pitch however, as many had opted to take alternative roots. Through Paris, Frankfurt and Helsinki to name but a few places taken in by Dundalk fans en route to ‘Zenit away’.

 

It really was ‘Dundalk FC on tour.’

 

Eventually it was touch down and after a 50-minute spin to the hotel which saw my debit card lose another pound in weight, it was into the city centre to meet up with some of those joining us on the eastern expedition.

 

We walked past the Petrovsky Stadium, Zenit’s home, on the way to the ‘Wild Duck’ pub. It was like a colosseum with massive stanchions supporting the bowl like arena. The imposing glare of the floodlights lit up the surrounding area as the snow fell to the ground as softly as Ronan Finn’s first touch.

 

Eventually we made it to the Wild Duck. Now there is places at home that have names which invoke similar sentiments as to “where the hell did they get that name from.”

 

‘The Stray Sod’, ‘The Randy Leprechaun’, etc.

 

However, when I mean this place was the ‘Wild Duck’, I actually mean that there was a duck running around free range, unharnessed or whatever you want to call it.

 

Picture it: 20 drunk Irishmen and women, myself and a duck, at 3am local time. You could not write it.

 

There was no sing-song, but going by the feelings of those whom mingled together last evening there will be tonight. It was “when we get the three-points tomorrow night”, “it’s 11 vs 11 at the end of the day, we have a chance”, “of course we have a chance”, “a point would be a great result”, etc.

 

All opinions were traded. The inevitable debate regarding who Stephen Kenny will play here, there, and everywhere was thoroughly debated before the good old times were reminisced one final time, until Tel-Aviv!

 

It was like the night before Christmas, some stories were told and the odd row was caused which was settled by another round of drinks of course.

 

One thing that everybody agreed on though was that just being here, in itself, was almost implausible.

 

“If someone had of told me in January that we’d be in St. Petersburg……in November, I’d have sent them……”, you get the picture. Clichés, but it really is incredible to think that little Dundalk from the Carrick Road in north-east Ireland are playing in proper European competition against a city with a population of more than the whole island of Ireland. It’s bonkers.

 

Another thing that we couldn’t have imagined doing ten-months ago was wandering the streets of St. Petersburg at 3:30am local time in November.

 

Well I suppose that’s just another thing to mark off the bucket list.

 

The next thing must surely be the three-points!