THEIR spirits might be in the doldrums after Ireland’s inept performances at Euro 2012, but the ‘Don’t Tell Merkel’ flag crew, who capitalised on satire, social media and the hype surrounding the tournament, have raised a fortune for needy charities.
The group of UL graduates posed with the Irish flag reading ‘Angela Merkel Thinks We’re At Work’ and attracted international media attention as they followed the Irish team, even making the front cover of German newspaper Bild, read regularly by eight million people.
The friends - Richie Tuohy and Eoin O’Brien from Dromkeen, Pallasgreen’s Conor Dwyer, Eoin Cantwell from Thurles, Richie Leahy from Galway and Gerry Nolan and Paul Davis, both from Roscommon - have been interviewed by media across the globe since they set up the Twitter account ‘Merkel Flag Crew’ to allow people to track their movements.
They are now putting disappointment at Ireland’s exit behind them in order to raise money for charity.
After turning down offers of payment for the flag in Poland, they held a series of live auctions on 2FM this week since returning to Ireland.
This Friday they received a bid of €15,800 from a company in Barcelona - Iris - run by Oonagh McNerney from Listowel. Dublin nightclub Copper Face Jacks donated a further €5,000 after narrowly missing out on purchasing the flag in the auction.
The cash will go to three year old Oscar Knox in Belfast, who suffers from Neuroblastoma and the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation, the fundraising arm of Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin.
And the lads have been invited to meet the German ambassador to Ireland at his residence in Dublin next week, the diplomat clearly seeing the funny side of the flag’s message to German chancellor Merkel.
“We had people offering us cash and drinks on the street but we didn’t want to be just taking money off people,” explained Dromkeen’s Richie Tuohy from the airport in Prague this Wednesday.
“Oscar had been onto us on Twitter and had made his own flags. He made a flag before the first game saying ‘My Mam Thinks I’m In Bed Early’ so we encouraged people to donate money to Oscar and it came out of that,” he added.
After a chance meeting with FAI chief John Delaney, the group managed to get all of the Irish squad to sign the flag, so it holds extra value outside the kitsch factor.
“Oonagh is going to try and get the Spanish or maybe Barcelona team to sign it now and keep raising the flag’s value,” Richie said in the aftermath of the auction.
“It will eventually go back to Oscar in Belfast but we want to keep the momentum going and raise more money for the charities,” he added.
Limerick publican Charlie Chawke met and posed with the Don’t Tell Merkel flag crew at his pub in Dublin this week, while the lads have been interviewed by BBC and RTE about their exploits.
While Richie admitted they were in low spirits after the failures on the pitch, he said that the week in Poland had been “magic”.
“We are still in the middle of it and catching up with ourselves, but it has been magic, the best week of our lives, something we will always remember,” he said.
“People have said they have never seen a story last this long! We think it might be because the team have done so bad that we have become the feel good story,” he added with a laugh.