Ralph Hewitt offers alternative entertainment for the GAWA
The Euros kick off on Friday — but sadly we will not be there. Ralph Hewitt has 21 other things for Northern Ireland fans to do over the next month.
An obvious one — watch the Euros
Northern Ireland not being there doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the football. Turkey and Italy kick it all off on Friday night at 8pm, while the group stages will provide at least two games a day until June 23.
Move the TV into the garden, get the barbecue on (weather depending) and invite your mates round for a socially distanced Euro party.
Get your Eastenders fix
The BBC is releasing episodes of Eastenders early on its iPlayer for the first time during the Euros, avoiding the scheduling issues that have happened during previous tournaments.
Every Monday at 6am across three weeks from June 14, four episodes of Eastenders will drop on the iPlayer in one go - just make sure you are up early.
Adopt another team
Rather than sit at home and think what might have been if the ball didn't bounce off Jonny Evans to set up Slovakia’s winner in the Euro play-off final, why not back another team in the finals?
With England, Scotland and Wales all in the tournament, there is plenty of home nation interest.
As for me, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Netherlands - maybe it’s down to Nigel de Jong’s old fashioned and perfectly legal challenge on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final.
Hell in a Cell
You may be wondering what I’m talking about? Wrestling, of course!
If you need 90 minutes or more of drama to fill the footballing void, there is plenty of the much maligned WWE on the telly.
This month’s big pay-per-view event is Hell in a Cell on Sunday, June 20.
Get a sweepstake on the go
Is there a much better way to peak your interest in the Euros - without Northern Ireland involved - than a sweepstake?
I was involved in a World Cup sweepstake at work in 2014 and drew Chile, Ivory Coast and Ghana - you might have more luck though.
Get your workmates, friends and family involved and you could be immersed in the drama of the Euros - without having to get soaked in Lyon.
Visit Northern Ireland’s tourism spots
There are plenty of famous landmarks and tourism spots in Northern Ireland that you might never have got around to visiting.
Thanks to Game of Thrones, there’s one in almost every town in the country.
From Castle Ward in Co Down to The Dark Hedges, you could almost visit a famous Game of Thrones landmark on each day of the Euros. I mean, who doesn't love looking at trees?
Swap the football boots for walking boots
Get those old walking boots out of the shed and put your day in at any of Northern Ireland’s best walking trails.
From the Mourne Mountains to Co Fermanagh’s Cuilcagh Mountain there’s plenty to choose from.
We would all rather be walking to and from the glamorous football stadiums to see Ian Baraclough’s men take on one of the Europe’s footballing giants but you can tell the kids Finn McCool is waiting for them at the Giant’s Causeway.
With bars and restaurants reopened across Northern Ireland, you could have a Euro-themed pub crawl.
Why not start off in Belfast’s Lavery’s for the Wales and Switzerland game on Saturday at 2pm, before heading to The Dirty Onion for Denmark against Finland at 5pm?
Round your day off at Robinsons as Belgium take on Russia at 8pm then you are just a short walk from getting the train home.
Rewatch old TV shows
As we exit lockdown the last thing anyone wants to do is watch more television, but if you can’t stand to watch the Euros without Northern Ireland then there is plenty to choose from.
I’ve already rewatched The Office, Schitt’s Creek, The Crown and all the Marvel films since January, but I’m keeping Lost in case of emergencies.
A major football tournament without the Green and White Army might just be one of them.
Fancy a holiday?
Sports fans often enjoy planning their holidays around international football tournaments or boxing events.
Sun-seekers have been taking full advantage of the international travel green list for a much deserved break.
I was lucky enough to be on the Greek side of Cyprus when Greece shocked Portugal in the final of the 2004 European Championships.
In 2018, I visited Boston during the World Cup. There’s nothing like a bar full of sombrero wearing Mexicans and bottles of tequila to get you in the mood for football.
Plan a staycation
If you would rather stay in Northern Ireland during the Euros you can book an Airbnb.
A dome house in Portglenone could be an option or an entire cabin along the Causeway coast.
Houses are an option too - just make sure there’s a television so you don’t miss out on your Euro fix.
Activision’s release of the online game Warzone couldn't have been timed better at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The cross-platform Call of Duty battle royale attracted record levels of users who were stuck at home.
If you haven't got into it already, the Euros might be the best time to start – and take out your frustration of not being able to go to the finals on unsuspecting Warzone opponents.
Go on a health drive
The next four weeks could be an opportunity to focus on your health and getting more active.
Between the 5pm and 8pm kick-offs, you could head out for a walk or go to the gym to fill the time between games.
Set yourself the challenge of hitting the 10,000 step mark each day of the Euros.
You’ll be surprised how quickly you can walk if you’re running late for the France and Germany game on June 15.
Get those tastebuds tingling
Plan yourself a day out to the coast or somewhere off the beaten track to get a taste of what Northern Ireland has to offer.
The Whistledown Hotel in Warrenpoint offers stunning views of Carlingford Lough, not to mention Portrush’s famous Ramore Restaurants.
For something away from the coast, Moira’s Wine and Brine is up there with the best, while there’s an abundance to choose from in Belfast.
Take a digital detox
Can’t stand the online heckling from England, Scotland and Wales fans making fun of Northern Ireland staying at home? Delete the social media apps and take a break from it all.
It has been suggested that staring at your phone probably isn't the healthiest thing to do.
Most of our time online is spent scrolling through pointless videos on Facebook and Twitter.
You’ll be surprised how much extra time you’ll have on your hands - plenty of more hours to enjoy the Euros.
Get into Northern Ireland politics
If Austria’s fixture against North Macedonia doesn't get you excited then give the Northern Ireland political arena a go.
With Edwin Poots and Paula Bradley swooping in to take the managerial reigns of the DUP, it will prove quite the tactical battle at Stormont - as well as within the party itself.
Who could forget the France squad’s revolt against their manager Raymond Domenech at the 2010 World Cup?
It could be a similar situation for Mr Poots if Arlene Foster’s supporters have their way.
Take up cooking
Instagram has plenty of Northern Ireland based influencers who are getting people into the kitchen.
Bored of Lunch has over 40,000 followers and gives you a step by step guide on everything from slow cooker paella with chicken and chorizo to buffalo chicken tenders.
Hannah Garrett’s ‘hannahsrecipebook’ is another to try. A personal favourite of mine is her healthy Greek chicken gyros.
Go for the full-kit look
With the money you’ll be saving from not having to buy match tickets, travel and accommodation, get the whole family sorted with the Northern Ireland kit.
The Adidas shirt, shorts and socks will cost adults £117, but the whole kit for children comes in at a much more reasonable £45.
Follow another sport
It is not just the climax of the football season – Rugby union’s Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup and the Gallagher English Premiership are still in action.
Elsewhere, motorsport fans can enjoy Formula 1 in June and July, while Northern Ireland’s six-time World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea will be hoping to extend his lead at the top of the table.
Relive Euro 2016
If none of the options above work for you, you could always take a trip down memory lane and rewatch Northern Ireland’s heroics from the Euros in France.
Gareth McCauley scoring against Ukraine in Lyon is up there with the best moments of my life.
Of course, if you can’t find the full 90 minute matches you could sob your way looking through old photos of that unforgettable summer with Freed From Desire blasting in the background.
Make plans for Qatar
The road to the 2022 World Cup got off to a difficult start, but Northern Ireland fans will never stop dreaming.
So why not spend the next few weeks digging out the travel brochures and checking out what Qatar – next year’s hosts – has to offer? Just in case...
Well, we can dream, can’t we?