Munster fans promise to paint San Sebastian red
Legions of Leinster and Munster supporters begin the great exodus today as they head for Toulouse in France and San Sebastian in Spain for the Heineken Cup semi-finals.
The first sorties began last night. However, the exodus begins in earnest today.
More than 4,000 Leinster and 7,000 Munster supporters are expected to travel for the two matches.
Indeed, some fans are planning a weekend orgy of rugby by attending the Leinster game in Toulouse on Saturday before making their way south to San Sebastian for Munster's clash against Biarritz.
Peter Breen, spokesman for Leinster Rugby, said that, given the tough economic times we were living in, it was heartening to see such massive numbers of supporters travelling to overseas fixtures.
"We're anticipating in excess of 4,000 supporters in the stands in Toulouse . . . We've had a huge number of fans travelling since before the Heineken Cup final last year and it gives a huge boost to the team even before they step a foot on to French soil," he added.
While most supporters will be travelling from the Leinster heartland, ex-pats living in France and the UK are expected to attend in big numbers, with one fan travelling all the way from Chicago in the United States to cheer on his team.
In San Sebastian, Munster fans have promised to paint the town red, while back in Limerick, one loyal supporter will ensure the home flags are flying.
Sports-mad Paddy O'Halloran (65) decks out his home at Cannon Breen Park in Thomondgate for every sporting occasion and yesterday he was busy hanging red flags in a tribute to his beloved Munster team.
Located just a stone's throw from the famous Thomond Park Rugby Stadium, Paddy's terrace home has become quite a tourist attraction for visiting rugby supporters.
"I'll have about 30 Munster flags flying in front of the house this weekend to celebrate Munster in the Heineken Cup Semi-final in Spain.
"We deck the house out for every sporting occasion but the rugby fans love to see the Munster flags when they are walking down to Thomond Park," he explained.
"It's a bit of fun and it doesn't cost a whole lot so we enjoy doing it. And we've met some lovely people who come over from England and France for the rugby matches in Thomond Park and who sit on our wall to get their photo taken."
And with 14 children, Paddy and his wife Mary Ann will have no shortage of company for Sunday's game.
"We'll watch the match at home, like we always do and sure with such a big family there is always people coming and going from our house so there'll be a great atmosphere."