'I am hoping that some guy will take pity on me' - At least 20,000 Irish fans scrambling for match tickets
At least 20,000 Irish fans have travelled to Bordeaux for Ireland's crunch clash with Belgium without a ticket for the game.
Rarer than a Roy Keane smile and more valuable than a rhino horn in Rathkeale, a ticket for Ireland's clash with Belgium is now the most prized possession in France.
The Irish Embassy, which has opened a temporary consulate in the coastal city, estimates that two-thirds of the Irish fans in the city do not have official passes for the games.
A total of 9,000 tickets were given to the Irish and Belgian football associations. The remainder were distributed by UEFA. It's believed that a number of these fell into Irish hands.
However, on the eve of the game, at least 20,000 supporters are still searching.
Some fans have even resorted to desperate measures. Dave Cohig (32) from Carrigaline in Co Cork has taken to wearing an Eamon Dunphy mask with the words 'Need a ticket please' written across the front.
Drinking a pint in The Connemara pub on Cours Albert in the city, Dave remained confident of his chances of securing a pass.
“I am wearing an Eamon Dunphy mask, I have a pass from the girlfriend and my fingers are crossed. I am hoping that some guy will take pity on me and give me a ticket.”
Dave, who describes himself as a veteran of numerous All Ireland final ticket scrambles, said he remains confident that he will get into the game which kicks off at 3pm in Bordeaux (2pm Irish time).
“I have been through this hundreds of times before and I have always gotten sorted. I believe that if you are determined to get into a game you will do it.
“I am hoping to pay face value but I have €200 in my back pocket.”
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Tickets for the game are selling for between €300 and €1,000 on the black-market but many supporters say they would rather watch the game in the pub than fund touts.
College friends Enda Kivlehan (25), Hugh Byrne (24), Philip Murphy (27) and Conor McGinley (24) have all travelled to Bordeaux with no tickets.
The four physiotherapists even have a family connection to one of the squad's physios but this avenue has proven fruitless.
They have spent hours on the UEFA ticket portal and contacted everyone in their phonebooks but have had no luck.
Asked what they will do for the game if they don't strike gold in the next 24 hours, Enda said: “We will probably watch the game in The Connemara bar if it's raining and if not we might go to the Fanzone.”
Sean Meehan (28) from Co Fermanagh, has already resigned himself to watching the game in the massive Fanzone on Bordeaux's Place de Quinconces.
“I literally haven't tried at all to get one. If a stroke of fortune happens to strike me then of course I will take one.
“But I am happy just to be here, having the craic in the fanzone.”
The Irish embassy has warned the lucky Irish fans who managed to secure passes that they could still miss the game if they do not give themselves enough time to reach the 42,000 seater Stade de Bordeaux in the north of the city.
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A spokeswoman has appealed to fans to leave themselves at least three hours before kick-off to get to the game.
She told Independent.ie: “People need to be aware that the public transport infrastructure has nothing like the capacity of Paris. Small trams will take fans to the stadium and there is a good 20 minute walk to entry gates.
“We are recommending fans leave centre of Bordeaux three to four hours before kick off time; certainly by 12 they should aim to be on the move.
“We had no fans with tickets who missed the match in Paris, but some missed the opening ceremony and anthems.
“Garda officers and Fans Ambassadors will be at stadium to help fans at security checks but remember to travel light and check the UEFA app for prohibited items. Also to be aware the main train station in Bordeaux (Gare Saint Jean) is undergoing extensive works and there is a lot of scaffolding and limited space in station.”
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