CROSSING the border between Ukraine and Moldova is an experience that will stay with Donal O’Sullivan after his Champions League final adventure.
It was the day after Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Kiev, and the Dunmanway man (37), a life-long Reds fan, Chris Whitehead, also from Dunmanway, and Pat Tynan, Ballyvolane, shared a taxi with four more Liverpool fans from Dublin, all making the trip from Kiev to Chisinau Airport in Moldova.
The nearly 500km taxi ride took seven hours, setting off at 8am following a long night before and also included a border crossing that went better for this group of supporters than for some others.
‘When you talk about roads in Ireland being bad, this was even rougher again,’ Donal says.
‘The border control was pretty hairy to get through. We met fellas in Chisinau Airport who said they had to pay €400 to the lads at the border to be let through.
‘We got off lightly and got charged nothing, just showed our IDs, but it was an experience alright.’
Perhaps, the gods were in a kinder mood to these Liverpool fans considering what had unfolded at the NSC Olimpiyskiy stadium the previous evening.
Not only did Liverpool lose the final but it was the series of events that all led to Jurgen Klopp’s team’s disappointment that jars the most – losing top scorer Mo Salah to a shoulder injury after 30 minutes following a tangle with Real defender Sergio Ramos and then Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius gifted Madrid two goals.
With setbacks like that, stopping an experienced Real side was never going to be easy.
‘I’ve had some unbelievable days out supporting Liverpool and this weekend was right up there – apart from the result,’ Anfield regular Donal O’Sullivan says.
‘There were two squares in the city dedicated to Liverpool fans. I met up with my brother, who came up from Abu Dhabi for the match.
‘The atmosphere was brilliant before the game and during the game up to Salah going off – that sucked the energy out of the place. There was a collective groan and there was a lull for a while.
‘When Mane got the equaliser it was up there with anything I have ever experienced.’
But the along came Karius, his howlers gifting those two goals to Real Madrid.
‘He has come in for a lot of criticism all year and a lot of it is justified to be fair. I know he is young but at that level you can’t make mistakes like that,’ Donal says.
‘Until Klopp rectifies that position, Liverpool will struggle to get over the line. It needs to be sorted sooner rather than later.’
Donal’s mood was lifted earlier this week with the news that Liverpool have signed Fabinho from Monaco and Naby Keita is on the way from RB Leipzig – two new faces to cheer on when the season kicks back into action in August.
‘I try to get over ten, 12 times a season, if I can,’ says Donal, whose Liverpool obsession is shared by his wife Sandra, from Newcestown.
‘She is a Liverpool fan and a huge sports fan, loves the GAA, so she’s very understanding!’
Already, Donal’s son Oisin (3) is following his father’s footsteps supporting Liverpool and Eabha (nine months) is likely to follow the same path – and Donal hopes they enjoy the same highs he has over the years.
‘The Roma and Manchester City Champions League games I was at in Anfield this season were electric, on a different level to the league games,’ he says, before admitting that he’s now been at Liverpool’s last two Champions League finals that they’ve lost, in 2007 against AC Milan and now against Real Madrid.
With Klopp’s squad improving, Donal’s hoping it will be third time lucky quite soon.