Keith wears heart on his sleeve and Moyross on boots
MOYROSS may be more than 1,200 miles from the Eternal City, but Irish rugby star Keith Earls will proudly make a statement for his home place this afternoon when he steps on to the turf in Rome's Stadio Flaminio.
The most famous son of the sprawling northside Limerick neighbourhood has always worn his heart on his sleeve for his native Moyross and today that pride in his home transfers to his specially inscribed boots for the opening Six Nations clash.
All Irish supporters will be hoping that Keith's 'Moyross'-emblazoned boots leave the Italians eating dust.
Keith's father and Limerick rugby legend Ger last night joked of the lime-green Adidas boots: "I suppose they wouldn't have done in my day -- they look like something out of the soccer. I'd give him (Keith) a slagging, but I don't care what they are like or what colour they are as long as he is playing well."
Ger said his winger son had a contract with Adidas but he was glad that the Limerick suburb was printed on the heel.
"Keith has always been proud of Moyross. He is back there as often as he can to help out with fundraising or whatever else he can do for people. His friends are all there -- they were all around at his house playing cards a few days ago. We are very grateful to all our friends in Moyross," Ger said.
A taxi driver in Limerick city, Ger said he couldn't travel to the game due to the expense.
"I did it all last year. It's a costly job, all the travelling around, and I'm just one of the many who can't get out there," he said.
The recession means the ranks of travelling Irish supporters planning an assault on Rome's restaurants and bars will be well down on previous raids.
More than 700 of the IRFU's 5,500 ticket allocation were returned to the hosts.
Theresa South of Creation Travel in Limerick said fans cannot afford to travel.
"Definitely, it is well down. People just don't have the money to go. Some flights to Italy were full this weekend but not as many as in other years," Ms South said.
"Some fans will be making their own way there, but you can see the difference in the chartered flights direct to Rome.
"There is no chartered flight out of Shannon, one out of Cork and I think just a small few from Dublin. Before, the corporate sector would have brought people away for the weekend for the game, but not any more."