Monday 16 October 2017

Irish eyes blinded by Brisbane sun, but they're still smiling

Kate Rowan Brisbane

THE sunshine hurt the eyes, but there was a smile on the face of every Lions fan as they reflected on a nerve-jangling 23-21 win over the Wallabies.

On a Sunday morning in Brisbane, it appeared that the Australians had slept in and were decidedly quiet.

Meanwhile, a sea of red continued to trickle through the city, many in search of a hangover cure.

There were plenty of Irish who have adopted Australia as their home and were delighted to put one over on the natives.

Angela Roche, an engineer from Wexford town who lives in Sydney with her partner, Clive Mooney, said: "Last night was something else, probably the best atmosphere I have ever experienced at a match.

"Moving to Australia, we really miss going to Ireland and Leinster matches, so having the Lions come here was a huge bonus for us.

"We even gatecrashed the Lions' training session one day. Seeing them has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Christopher Doherty, from Gweedore, Co Donegal, admitted to being more a Gaelic man, "but I'm getting into the craic with the Lions".

But as with the test team, the Welsh contingent of fans seems to be outnumbering the Irish.

Angela added: "It was like being in Cardiff with all the Welsh here, so many more than the Irish. The Welsh fans are just amazing."

At the Brisbane Backpackers' Hostel, many of the staff are Irish, including receptionists Anita Feely, from Roscommon, and Clare Damery, from Stillorgan, Dublin.

However, most of the rugby fans staying there were Welsh or English.

Many found the cost of match tickets prohibitive, and instead were soaking up the atmosphere in the city's many sports bars.

In the city centre's Queen Street Mall, three generations of the Crowley family were tucking into a fry in the Pig and Whistle pub.

Grandfather John Joe left Sneem, Co Kerry, for Gloucester along with his brother, David, in 1961.

The pair had just arrived in Brisbane in time for the match and were joined by John Joe's son, Gary, and grandsons Shane and Jamie, who moved to Queensland seven years ago.

Shane said it was tough celebrating after the match with the older generation.

"We had trouble keeping up with them last night, they just don't stop. They make us feel old!" he said.

Despite roaring on the Lions, John Joe is hoping for a Wallaby comeback in the second test.

"We don't have tickets for the game in Melbourne, so we want an exciting one in Sydney, which we're going to," he said.

"But I do think the Aussies will come back – even though you're supporting the Lions, you want it to come down to the last match."

Reports and analysis: See sport

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