Friday 2 December 2016

Irish fans sleep on beach after French trains strike leaves them stranded

Michael McHugh

Published 15/06/2016 | 12:51

Northern Ireland fans during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland fans during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Poland and Northern Ireland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 12, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)

A frustrated group of Northern Ireland football fans had to sleep on the beach in France after their train was cancelled.

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Kyle Morton, 28, from Belfast, and five Ulster University friends planned to leave Nice at around teatime on Tuesday for Lyon, where Northern Ireland play Ukraine on Thursday.

But the service was cancelled following industrial action by railway workers which has paralysed parts of the network in France.

With no accommodation in Nice, Mr Morton and his friends trawled the bars and kebab shops of the Mediterranean sunspot, having sing-offs with Polish and German supporters into the small hours, and eventually settled down on the pebble beach.

Mr Morton said: "It is all part of the big adventure but we just thought France would be a lot more organised.

"They did not do much to accommodate us, they did not try to rebook us on anything."

As dawn broke, the group drank cartons of orange juice on the rocky beach.

They spent the last few hours outside the train station and were first on board.

But the beleaguered group had to jockey for seats with pre-booked passengers in a game of "musical chairs" which saw them switch places seven times.

Mr Morton said there were a lot of fans from different countries in the city and it was a good opportunity to mix with them.

"It was a long night. We had rented out an apartment but had checked out of it and had nowhere else to go.

"It is not that it has put a dampener on it, it is just a bit frustrating.

"But we are keyed up to have a great time in Lyon."

Northern Ireland fans have also been caught up in a strike by French air traffic controllers which caused several flights between the Republic of Ireland and France to be cancelled on Tuesday.

Supporters departing in their droves across Provence from Nice to Lyon were hampered by the cancellation of some train and bus services.

The French government is attempting to reform labour laws, including making it easier for employers to lay off workers, reduce overtime pay, increase working hours and reduce the strength of unions.

Press Association

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