Sci-fi fans turn out in force as imperial troops 'invade' Ireland
A LONG time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... Scratch that.
There may not be any space travel involved, but as you step in from the cold and on to a replica 'Star Wars' set inhabited by real-life characters, there is definitely more than a little magic in the air.
Fans of all ages will be out in 'force' this weekend as Ireland's only Star Wars convention opens its doors, or, more correctly, 'portals'.
If you've ever tried to construct your own lightsabre out of toilet rolls or wanted to meet the 'real' R2-D2, this is probably the place for you. The scene is set as the main theme song blasts out and you pass under the steely gaze of two stormtroopers, dressed in their distinctive white battle armour, guarding the entrance.
But behind the menacing appearances lurk enthusiastic, approachable members of the 'Emerald Garrison', the Irish-based club responsible for organising this unique experience and for building all the props and sets on display.
Inside, the atmosphere is electric as fans walk around gazing open-mouthed at life-sized replicas of well-known props, such as the 'speeder bike' from 'Return of the Jedi', and an 'AT-ST scout walker'. And, for the first time, fans will get to see a new life-size recreation of a 'Y-wing fighter', the famous rebel starship.
All the costumed characters, from stormtoopers, clone troopers, Chewbacca, Darth Vadar and Jedi knights, happily pose for photos and chat with fans.
Star Wars fanatic Martin Ryan, who set up the 'Emerald Garrison' in 2005, said: "This is the only place in the world that fans will be able to fulfil the ultimate dream of getting up close to life-size replicas of spaceships."
And because the club is very involved in charity work, €1 from every ticket sold will go to the Barretstown charity.
Another big draw is the rare opportunity to meet and have photos taken with some of the actors from the original 'Star Wars' trilogy, including Kenny Baker, the man inside 'R2-D2', and Jeremy Bulloch, who played bounty hunter Boba Fett.
Mr Baker, one of only two actors who starred in all six films, said he was "delighted to be in Ireland" and "looking forward to meeting fans, both young and not so young".
It is impossible not to get caught up in the fun and spirit of things. As Yoda himself would say, "lots of fun you will have".
'Invasion Dublin' will run from today until Monday, 10am to 7pm daily, at the Citywest Convention Centre in Dublin.