independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Green army invades London as fans jet in to cheer on heroes in vital Six Nations clash

Ireland Rugby supporters, Ciaran Todd, 27, and Karen Duffy, 28, from Tullamore, Offaly, pictured in Dublin Airport. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Evening Herald  21/2/2014
Ireland Rugby supporters, Ciaran Todd, 27, and Karen Duffy, 28, from Tullamore, Offaly, pictured in Dublin Airport

Excitement was at fever pitch in Dublin Airport as throngs of rugby fans boarded flights to London.

Ireland line out at Twickenham today in what will be legendary centre Brian O'Driscoll's last match against England.

But there will be no reminiscing in the away dressing room before the game, even if fans talked of little else as they headed over.

The Six Nations clash will also be Joe Schmidt's first taste as Ireland coach of the white-hot atmosphere in Twickenham.

"Obviously I'm hoping for a good result. I'm very excited. I'm hoping for a great performance. It's the start of a new era and Brian O'Driscoll's last match against the English," said 34-year-old rugby supporter James Cahill.

"I'm looking for a result first and foremost and hopefully a great performance. The lads will be a bit more up for it and there has been a bit of talk already (about O'Driscoll) this week," added the solicitor from Ranelagh.

However, he believes the players will maintain their focus on the task at hand.

Eithne Bonnais with her husband Matthieu Bonnais  and Maura Turner at Twickenham for the Ireland England Game. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Eithne Bonnais with her husband Matthieu Bonnais and Maura Turner at Twickenham for the Ireland England Game. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

"Any danger (of losing focus) that may exist will be straightened out very quickly. Schmidt is excellent at keeping focused.All the panel are talking about how the entire match day 22 know their jobs. I think it's a big improvement. It was one of the things we struggled with," Mr Cahill told the Herald.

"If we continue down this path, there is a big future for this team." James is travelling with his brother Paul. They were lucky enough to get tickets from their sister, who works with Rugby World Cup 2015.

Undertaker Sean Flynn (24), from Athlone, Co Westmeath, has high expectations.

"I'm expecting a few pints, an Ireland win and two or three tries for Brian O'Driscoll.

"It's realistic. Maybe two tries," said Sean, who will be attending Twickenham for the second time. He and his brother Niall got their tickets from DoneDeal.ie, paying ¿230 each.

They are part of a group of 16 travelling to the game.

Ciaran Connolly (27) from Goatstown in South Dublin, believes Ireland will prevail, but only just.

"We're expecting a close battle but Ireland to win by a score or two. It will be decided in the scrum and I think that's where we have the bettering of them," he said.

It will be a "momentous" occasion.

"O'Driscoll is matching (George) Gregan's all-time international cap record. It will be the last time against the old red rose," Ciaran said.

"It will be an emotional time for him, no doubt. We're looking to him to lead the mental game. It will be huge. I'm getting nervous just talking about it."

Ciaran anticipates he will be a "trembling, nervous wreck" before the game, which is why he has taken a hip flask with him.

Sam Sutton (22) from Kildare told the Herald: "I'd say it will be a tight game but I'd say Ireland will win in the end. I'm looking forward to it now."

Another fan, Ciaran Todd (27) from Tullamore in Co Offaly, is hoping to be able to pick up tickets before the game.

"We're going to see the women's team playing England (after the men's game) but I'm still hoping for tickets for the men's one. They are so scarce. It's so hard to get them," he said.

"I don't have one (a price limit) in my head. We'll go to a nearby pub if we don't get a ticket, to get the atmosphere. I don't think there'll be a huge winning margin. It will be a tight."

He hopes the Irish team has the "same intensity" they displayed in the narrow defeat to New Zealand last year.

If Ireland win today, they will be on track to win the coveted Grand Slam.

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