Friday 30 September 2016

'A bit like Euro 2012 all over again' - Green Army 'crushed' after Belgium hand out devastating defeat

Catherine Wylie

Published 18/06/2016 | 17:18

Republic of Ireland fans react in The Living Room bar in Dublin City Centre after Belgium score their third goal during the Euro 2016 match between Republic of Ireland and Belgium
Republic of Ireland fans react in The Living Room bar in Dublin City Centre after Belgium score their third goal during the Euro 2016 match between Republic of Ireland and Belgium

The spirit of the Irish was quashed after days of partying as Belgium beat Ireland 3-0 at Euro 2016.

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The Republic's fans, who have won praise throughout the tournament for their behaviour in France, are now pessimistic about their prospects.

The supporters in Bordeaux left the stadium crestfallen as they know they now have to beat Italy to qualify.

Shane Franklin, 34, from Galway, said he will stay in France for the next match but he is not upbeat about Ireland's chances.

He said: "A bit like Euro 2012 all over again. The whole thing played bad.

"We're staying on because we can still qualify but it's not looking good.

"Because I'm dejected today I don't think we will qualify."

His brother Neil Franklin, 36, said: "Ireland was brutally outclassed. That's the only way I can put it.

"I was thinking of leaving the match early."

Ronan Synnott, 26, from Dublin, said he was "very disappointed", adding that the Belgians are ranked in the top 10 in the world.

"I don't know why we expected anything else really," he said.

But others fans chose to look on the bright side.

Conor Dignam, 26, from Dublin, said: "We can still go through after the Italy game. It's not the end of the world."

James Cooney, 28, from Dublin, said: "Sure look, we've beaten the Italians before and we will do it again, and the sun is out for the shorts now."

Steven Byrne, 29, also from Dublin, said: "Yes, it's hugely disappointing but one big result against Italy is all that's needed. Then we'll soon forget about today."

The game kicked off after Belgian authorities raided dozens of homes and arrested 12 suspects in a major anti-terror investigation which they said required "immediate intervention".

Across Belgium parties were being planned to watch live broadcasts of the match and some media outlets said such events could have been the targets.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said the nation would remain "extremely vigilant, hour by hour", but that the terror level across the nation would remain at the second-highest level, meaning a threat of an attack "is possible and likely".

Security at the Stade de Bordeaux was tight with thorough searches taking place on all fans.

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A sniffer dog was hard at work at one particular entrance, while two helicopters hovered overhead.

What appeared to be a security unit was also stationed on the roof of the stadium.

Meanwhile, there were reports that the trams had stopped, with suggestions that lots of fans were going to miss kick-off but the stadium was packed when the match got going.

Steven Byrne from Dublin got to his seat in the nick of time, and said he was surprised kick-off was not delayed to allow other fans to get in.

"We got the tram from outside the fan zone. The trams coming from the city were already full to the brim.

"Three or four trams passed before we finally squeezed onto one. Fans were then forced to depart the trams before the stadium stop, adding a 25-minute walk to the journey.

"It meant us and most other fans were only arriving to the stadium 15 to 20 minutes prior to kick-off.

"We got into our seats at five to three but there were still hundreds of fans still outside."

The match took place on the 22nd anniversary of the Ulster Volunteer Force massacre in Loughinisland, Co Down.

Earlier this month, families of the six men murdered by loyalist gunmen in the Heights Bar hailed a watchdog investigation that exposed significant police collusion with the killers for finally delivering "the truth".

Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire was damning in his assessment of the police role in the 1994 massacre.

Two UVF gunmen burst into the packed bar at around 10.10pm on June 18 1994 and fired at customers watching the Republic of Ireland play Italy in the World Cup in the USA. Six were killed and five injured.

Those murdered were Barney Green, 87, Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Daniel McCreanor, 59, Patrick O'Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39.

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