Supporters disappointed but hopeful for the future after team restores faith in Irish football
Published 27/06/2016 | 02:30
It wasn't the result they had been hoping for, but for the thousands of Ireland fans who gathered in Dublin city centre to watch the Boys in Green there was a renewed belief for the future.
Soaking up the atmosphere in the fan zone in Dublin's Smithfield, where a giant screen had been erected by Dublin City Council, Gerard and Frances Byrne, from Straffan, Co Kildare, said no one could have asked for more from the team.
"They did us proud. It was do or die, and they never stopped fighting," said Gerard.
Frances added: "The entire tournament has been a wonderful showcase for Irish hospitality and friendship...They've shown the world the very best of the Irish."
Tallaght friends Áine O'Rahilly and Patsy Kavanagh, who were in danger of losing their voices from cheering so hard, said that, while disappointed with the outcome, they were hopeful for the future.
"Most people had written off the team after Belgium but they really did silence their doubters these last two games," said Patsy.
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack when that first goal went in," said Áine.
"It was unbelievable...you couldn't have asked for a better start. It's just a shame that they couldn't keep up the momentum."
Meanwhile the first of Ireland's Green Army arrived in Dublin Airport last night, weary but unbowed.
Although beaten by France, the fans said the Irish squad had played brilliantly against tough competition.
"There was an unbelievable atmosphere in the stadium today," said John Hannon from Dublin.
"They played really well for the first hour. I'm delighted with their performance," he added while holding his son Christian (6) who accompanied him to the match. "We really could have won it," he added.
Seamus Doran (40) and John Gilligan (28), both from Carlow town, said the match was a fantastic experience.
"We out-sang the French today, even though there was only 10,000 or so of us against 45,000 French fans," said Seamus.
"The French came out a different team in the second half. Our team looked really tired and to get beaten 2-1 by a world-class team is no shame."
"We had an unbelievably good first half. The buzz was absolutely electric. Maybe we scored too soon," mused John.
Conor Grimes (30) from Kinnitty, Co Offaly, said the victory over the Italians was his Euro 2016 highlight.
"The first time I ever cried at a sporting event was when we scored against Italy. It was sheer euphoria and it'll remain a powerful memory always."
His friend Diarmuid McGrath (29) from Toomevara, Co Tipperary, said: "For an hour against the French today, we were living the impossible dream' Then came the heartbreak."