Monday 29 May 2017

Trap's army is in need of reinforcements for game

Fiona Ellis

PERHAPS they couldn't find it on the map.

Either way, not many boys -- or girls -- in green have made the trip to Armenia, ahead of the Ireland's qualifying match today.

It's their loss -- those who have made the effort have been rewarded by blue skies, sunshine and "dirt cheap" beers.

Yet the wide streets and open squares of the capital Yerevan are peppered with Irish jerseys and flags, despite the small number of die-hards who have made the difficult, and expensive, trip to eastern Europe.

"The people here are 200pc friendly," said Aidan Mullin, who landed in the city on Monday.

"They've been really welcoming and helpful. There are a good few Irish around but more are expected."

Most of the Irish are staying at the city centre's Best Western Hotel.

Dubliner Alan Clarke travelled with a group of 40 on Monday and has spent much of the intervening period relaxing by the hotel's pool.

With him is Donegal man Malachy Gormley (66), who hasn't missed an away game since Jack's Army marched across Europe in 1990.

Some in-depth revelations about life in Armenia were provided by a user on the supporters' website www.ybig.ie, who wasn't long out of an Armenian nightclub.

"Rule 1 in Armenia: No singing in public places," he advised.

"Rule 2: Don't put Irish flags on Soviet statues.

Boyzone

"Rule 3: Don't ask for requests in nightclubs, they genuinely don't know who Boyzone are."

The FAI has said that 350 tickets were applied for by Irish fans but it is estimated the posse will reach about 500 before kick off.

And it's not clear whether the locals will do much to fill the 16,000 capacity stadium. Tickets were initially on offer for between €8 and €16 but, in a country where the average monthly wage is approximately €300, not many were biting and ticket prices have dropped to €4.

"The Irish are most friendly and very funny," Andranik Hakobian of supporters club First Armenia Front said.

He organised a city centre party for both sets of supporters last night.

"I don't know who will win but I hope it will be Armenia," he added.

Ireland will be favourites but the home side have beaten the likes of Bulgaria and Poland recently, and will be no pushovers.

The qualifier for the European Championships will air at 4pm Irish time.

See Sport -- pages 81-84

Irish Independent

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