Green Army the toast of Paris as 100,000 Irish invade France
Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30
France has turned green for Euro 16 - and that is official.The number of Irish citizens based in France, normally around 13,000, has soared by 1,000pc to more than 130,000 as the Green Army, accompanied by their families, invade Paris, Bordeaux and Lille for Ireland's three group matches.
While match tickets are at a premium, ticketless Irish fans enhanced the proud reputation forged at Euro 88 and Italia 90 with their impeccable behaviour.
France is now engaged in a love-fest with Irish fans whose trouble-free partying has won hearts around Paris.
Irish supporters have already proved the most popular in the Euro 2016 fan zone at the Champs de Mars by the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Ireland's Ambassador to France, Geraldine Byrne Nason, paid tribute to Irish fans for "living up to their reputation".
"We know the Irish supporters are always good spirited and rarely pose difficulties for security personnel," she said. "They are living up to their reputation here already.
"I have been out and about myself and it has only been good humour and anticipation that we have been meeting. There has not been any challenge whatsoever."
The families of Ireland's football stars are also determined to sample the incredible atmosphere around the French capital with Claudine Keane, wife of Ireland's record goal-scorer Robbie Keane, promising to take in sights - including the Eiffel Tower.
Claudine said that security issues weren't going to stop her family from cheering on her husband, Robbie, and the Boys in Green.
She arrived in France as the wives and girlfriends of other Irish players also jetted in to cheer the team on tonight against Sweden.
The model, who is in Paris with her son Robert Jnr (6), mother Joan, and other family members, said that "life is for living".
"I am just aware of the security concerns in France rather than being frightened of them," she said. "I know the security is tight here and I put my faith in the fact that they have made it safe for everyone that is coming over to support the teams."
One of Ireland's most ardent fans at Euro 16 will be Robert Keane Jnr.
Claudine admitted her son was "beyond excitement" as he awaited the kick-off for Ireland's opening group game in Stade de France.
"They follow all the teams so he's dying to go, he just can't wait."
Passes for tonight's Stade de France clash with Sweden are like hen's teeth. Touts have demanded more than €2,000 for premium tickets.
Irish fans have been warned by Paris police about forged tickets - and pop-up internet sites which vanish after fans pay for non-existent tickets. Fans have also been warned that there will be three security checks around Stade de France in Saint-Denis in northern Paris and urged them to allow up to three hours to get from Paris city centre to the stadium.
Fans without tickets have been urged to avail of the special Euro 2016 fan zone by the Eiffel Tower.
Security at the fan zone mirrors that at Stade de France, with multiple checks by both police and private security personnel.
Die-hard fan Tim O'Connell from Meath travelled to the tournament with his partner Rosie Ryan.
He gave up his job during USA '94 so he could go and see Ireland take on Mexico. "That's the kind of thing you cannot put a price on," he said.
Neither have tickets for tonight's game but are hopeful of picking something up before kick-off.
Meanwhile, 90 Irish fans earned their match tickets the hard way with a 700km cycle from the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to Avenue Foch, within sight of the Arc de Triomphe. The fans undertook the cycle in aid of Irish charity, Mustard Seed, which works with disabled children in the developing world. Each cyclist received a priceless match ticket.