Golden tickets for Sunday could evade Irish fans
Touts are mopping up with absurd prices for the few tickets left, write Ralph Riegel and Wayne O'Connor
Irish fans travelling to Lyon to watch Sunday's showdown with France face an almost impossible task if they hope to get their hands on tickets for the knockout game.
Perhaps the most sought-after tickets in both countries for 20 years, it is understood that the FAI was allocated just 1,104 tickets for the massive clash.
Ireland fans were able to purchase 3,500 tickets for the fixture earlier this year.
This means it is likely that the Green Army could number less than 5,000 amongst the 59,186 supporters who will pack into Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday.
Ireland's 1-0 win over Italy on Wednesday, taking the country into the knockout stages of the competition for the first time, sparked a night of celebrations both at home and abroad.
The demand for tickets soared after Robbie Brady's goal against Italy set Ireland up for the clash with France.
Within hours of the win, ticket touts were out in force, targeting Irish supporters. Some were selling tickets for upwards of 20 times their face value of €55.
"They're trying to take advantage because they know there's plenty of lads desperate to get in and see the match," said Seán Quinn, who has been at the Euros since Ireland's opening game against Sweden.
"It seems most of the tickets were snapped up by the French well before the tournament, so it looks like most of Irish fans with sense are out of luck."
He added: "We've got a Whatsapp group set up to help track down tickets and I've seen some going for about €500.
"After the Italy game, there were a few English and Belgium lads looking to sell their tickets for Sunday for crazy prices - but there are a few Irish fans more than willingly to fork out the cash."
Supporters last night were paying up to €570 for a match ticket and that was the cheapest available on ticket sales websites.
Dubliners Craig Connolly, Declan McCabe and Shane Valentine were lucky enough to secure tickets before flying out to France two weeks ago.
"We got out of the stadium after the win and went back to the apartment to get on the wifi and book the travel and accommodation in Lyon," said Craig.
"We got a hotel for €40 each and train tickets off a French-language website for €15. People were on Skyscanner leaving the stadium, booking flights, so you had to be on the ball to get everything sorted quickly.
"Everything is booked up already," he added.
The number of Irish supporters searching for tickets has not peaked to these levels since the 1994 World Cup in the US.
French supporters ensured tickets would be in short supply after correctly predicting that their side would play their next game in Lyon before the competition had even started.
The clash will be the biggest game the hosts have played on French soil since the 1998 World Cup final against Brazil.
The fixture has really caught the attention of the French, who have fallen in love with the Irish fan base because of their humour and good-natured behaviour during the course of the tournament.
The French sports daily 'L'Equipe' ran a wrap around cover on its newspaper yesterday paying tribute to Ireland's win against Italy under the headline "Let the festival continue."
"If one of the two Irelands had not qualified, we would surely have sought permission to borrow their supporters. Let us love them a little longer," it said.
"They will give the country days and nights of happiness for one more week during this European Championship.
"If joy and emotion were not always on the field at the beginning of the competition, friends of Will Grigg, from the north, like the Boys in Green, from the south, were the stars, elsewhere, during matches and outside working hours."