Italian job done, now Euros' best guests line up to tackle hosts
Published 23/06/2016 | 02:30
Robbie Brady gave credit union managers across the country a sleepless night last night as the hoards of Irish fans already in France decided they were not yet ready to go home.
Ireland's win over Italy was only their fourth at a major tournament finals in 28 years.
Brady had already performed heroics by emerging through the fog with a crucial goal against Bosnia in the Euros qualifiers last November. His goal was key to putting Ireland on the way to France.
Now he has set them up with a tie against the hosts on Sunday. The French did not want us to leave and now we are not going.
In the fanzone in Lille last night Pat 'Moggy' Burke, from Grangecon, Co Wicklow, said he was trying to get in touch with his credit union.
"They stay open late on Wednesday nights and now we're staying on for another week," he said.
"I've been on to them already for another loan."
His wife Yvonne was just as excited. "I could have kissed Robbie Brady when it went in. I can't believe it," she said.
The city erupted as his header floated into the net five minutes before the end.
Strangers hugged strangers. Journalists from other countries, who were tasked with following the boisterous Irish fans through the tournament, were embraced by the overjoyed supporters.
Niall Bergin, from Castleisland, Co Kerry, had returned home from Kuwait before the tournament to tour Europe with friends. They have cancelled the trip now.
"We are supposed to be going up to Belgium and then on to Switzerland but that's scrapped now. I flew home a few days ago and we picked up a campervan in Rosslare and came straight here. We are staying here now."
His friend Eoin Hogan, from Laois, is due to fly home next week. He said: "That's scrapped now. Not a chance am I going home."
France has been like a home from home for the Irish. The locals embraced them for their party attitude and the way they conducted themselves. Now they will meet the host nation in Lyon on Sunday.
President Michael D Higgins was seen on the screen in Lille, leaping from his seat to celebrate Brady's winner.
"Tonight's game was a wonderful achievement and I want to extend my warmest congratulations to the Republic of Ireland team, the coaches and all those who made this well-deserved success possible," he said after the match.
He also paid tribute to the travelling Green Army.
"May I pay tribute to the Irish fans who have earned widespread acclaim for their behaviour in France. Ireland could not wish for better ambassadors abroad."