Bottles hurled in Marseille and Nice - but in Paris the Irish raise the roof with their songs
France says 'merci Irlande' as joyous fans calm security jitters in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower
Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30
Irish fans in Paris are facing security measures so tight, that even mobile phones are being examined as supporters go through a triple ring of armed cordons to access fan zones.
But the travelling green army looking forward to Ireland's opener against Sweden tomorrow seem to have accepted the onerous search measures, designed to keep them safe from terrorist attacks.
However the trouble that broke out yesterday was of the hooligan strain. Running fights broke out in Marseille between English and Russian fans - before and after the two sides drew 1-1.
Fans rioted before the game in the nearby Old Port district and briefly outside the Stade Velodrome. The clashes continued in the stadium moments after the final whistle, when a large group of Russian fans in the stand behind the goal advanced on England supporters. England fans fled for the exits in panic.
One fan was last night said to be in a critical condition, while two others were seriously injured.
Also last night fans from Northern Ireland and Poland fans clashed in advance of today's game between the two sides.
A Northern Ireland police officer accompanying fans at the scene said French riot police moved in after local youths hurled bottles at Northern Ireland supporters near the central square.
"About 20 to 30 Nice youths started throwing bottles at the Northern Ireland fans. Some bottles were thrown back, some punches were thrown," the officer said. "French police arrived to contain the situation."
In Paris the situation was very different with the Irish mingling amicably with the Parisians. A huge security presence is in operation here, but the atmosphere is noticeably different to that in Marseille. There are three banks of security checks on the way into the vast fanzone in front of the Eiffel Tower, where each game is broadcast live to thousands of people of all nationalities.
Supporters are frisked at least twice and bags are searched three times. Belongings that may be used as missiles are removed and dumped. The first security checkpoint is 200m away from the entrance and all roads in the area are closed to busy Parisian traffic. However, fans from all nations are jovial and greeting each other.
Supporters from Ireland mixed with Swedes, Croatians, Swiss, Germans and locals to watch the opening games in front of the spectacular backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, clad in blue, white and red.
"The craic here is unreal," said Emmet Murphy from Ennis. He travelled from Vancouver, Canada, for the tournament with his girlfriend Ivy Tatlock. They made a pit stop in Clare for his friend's wedding.
"I was back for the Euros - but the wedding just got dropped in there. You could not pick a better place than in front of the Eiffel Tower to have this. I was in Rio for the World Cup a few years ago - but the buzz here is way better. Plenty of singing for the boys in green. It is just brilliant."
Each goal was celebrated with pints of beer spilled in jubilation.
"What a waste," lamented one passer-by.
The police remained unconcerned, tolerant of the fact that they beer was being spilled in the right spirit.
Eight gardai are now in Paris to help co-ordinate with French police - and warned Irish fans to obey all their security instructions.
Irish supporters in Paris are wary of security issues.
Gaz Brown, a fan from Rush, Co Dublin, said he and 16 of his friends travelling to the three Ireland matches will be avoiding major French cities, partly because of security concerns.
"After the first game, we are flying to Barcelona and then we fly on to Bordeaux the day before the game, then to Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille. Safety factors mean we are trying to stay away from the big cities."