Green Army keeps faith as fans pray in cathedral for a victory
Published 22/06/2016 | 02:30
French hero and Lille local boy Charles de Gaulle would have smiled at the antics of the Green Army in the beautiful medieval city square named in his honour.
The founder of the fifth French Republic was always proud of his Irish roots and would have approved as Green Army members brought a fanfare of colour, singing, dancing and good humour to Place Charles de Gaulle.
Some even defied the rain to cool off from the humidity in the square's fountain.
The French general traced his Irish roots back to the 17th century through his great-grandmother, Marie Angelique McCartan, and visited Ireland in 1969, shortly before his death.
Dublin businessman David Bobbett said the welcome accorded Irish fans in Lille was something special.
"People have been incredibly friendly and welcoming.
"Lille is also such a beautiful city," the Terenure native said.
David also took time with his son Shane and family friend Susan O'Riordan (pictured above) to visit Lille Cathedral and offer a few discreet prayers that Ireland can deliver a famous victory tonight. "We have history against the Italians, so you never know," Shane said.
The uncle of Ireland striker Daryl Murphy also expressed hope that Ireland can deliver their fourth tournament win in 90 minutes since 1988.
He said he is also confident his nephew will make his tournament debut. "Obviously, Daryl isn't here to make up the numbers so it would be great to see him get a run," he said.
"You have to be confident. We didn't travel all this way and stay in a rubbish hostel for nothing, so of course they are going to win."
Irish and Italian fans created a remarkable feel-good atmosphere in Lille city centre which stood in stark contrast to the violent scenes involving English supporters in the city last week.
Italian fans Tony Millioti from Milan and brothers Simone, Mario and Nicola Licciardi from Benevento, arrived at Gare Flandres waving an Irish flag to honour their rivals. Irish fans immediately reciprocated by displaying an Italian banner.
"We would like Ireland to get through but we want Italia to win," Simone said.
Irish fans are expected to outnumber Italians in the 50,000-capacity Stade Pierre Mauroy by up to four to one.
With Italy already qualified for the next round, Italian fans are keen to offload tickets and skip the match with Ireland to save their cash for the latter stages of the tournament.
It means Ireland fans are picking up tickets for tonight's match for less than face value.
Category one tickets worth €145 for seats on the sideline were selling online for €75. Fans were also picking up tickets for half price in Lille city centre. In contrast, tickets for Ireland's match against Belgium in Bordeaux at the weekend were selling for more than €800.