Niall steals the show (and hearts) as One Direction kick off Croker gigs
IT began with fireworks and went down a storm. Last night, the biggest boy band in the world took to the stage in Croke Park in the first of three concerts.
The crowd went wild when the band arrived on stage shortly before 8.30pm.
After waiting for hours in the rain, the boys were given the famous Irish welcome, with Irish band member Niall Horan dressed in patriotic green, with tricolour tape on his microphone.
Fireworks exploded and the quintet blasted out their hit song 'Midnight Memories' as their first number.
The star of the show was undoubtedly Niall, who beamed from ear to ear looking out on the crowd as he played the guitar, receiving the biggest cheers of the night.
The proud young Mullingar man told the crowd of around 80,000: "Not too many Westmeath men make it to Croke Park."
Niall Horan also said it was "the best night of my life" and thanked Irish fans for being so 'unbelievable'.
"If you could see what we see right now... its amazing," he told the crowd.
"I'm a boy from Mullingar playing in Croke Park, the national stadium. It's ridiculous. I wouldn't be here with out you. You're the best fans in the world.
"This has been a perfect night," he added.
Fellow member Liam was also impressed by the atmosphere in Croker and joked; "This has been my favourite night yet, don't tell anyone."
He also asked the crowd if anyone liked Superquinn sausages because he had heard a lot about them.
One Direction fans travelled all the way from Donegal, New Zealand and Japan last night to see Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Harry Styles perform.
Close to 250,000 'tweenagers' and their patient parents will attend the gigs, which run over three nights.
The band have spent the last few months touring the globe with their 'Where We Are' tour, but yesterday Niall said playing to an Irish crowd in Croker would be the highlight of the tour.
"I've been waiting a while for this," he said. "It's a dream of ours to play Croke Park. "We're doing a world tour and it's the biggest gig on the tour."
It was a dull and drizzly day but that didn't deter fans who started to filter into the stadium in the early evening wearing waterproof ponchos and carrying an assortment of homemade posters covered in love hearts, glitter and photos of the boy band.
Ruby (7) and Libby Wardon (5) travelled down from Belfast with their parents for the day. "Santy got us the tickets," Ruby said. "I am so, so excited – there have been butterflies in my tummy all week."
Chloe Duggan (8) and Sarah O'Reilly (8) from Athlone were given tickets for the concert when they made their First Holy Communion.
The two cousins travelled to their first concert with their mothers Fiona Duggan and Caroline O'Reilly.
"We have the jammies in the boot of the car," Ms Duggan said. "When the concert is over and the screaming has stopped we'll be straight back to Athlone."
Superfans Meju, Suzuka, Nodoka and Azusa flew from Tokyo to see the boys perform pop hits 'Kiss You' and 'Story of my Life'.
"They are polite, perfect and beautiful," Meju told the Irish Independent.
However, not all attendees were quite so enthusiastic – nine-year-old Scott Carroll was dragged to the concert by his sister Lucy (6) and mother Margaret Kenny.
"I don't want to see any of them," he said. "Not one. My mam made me come up."
With 80pc of the audience aged between five and 18, promoters MCD have increased security measures to ensure the grounds are child friendly.
A 'tag your child' system is in place, allowing parents to put their seat number and contact information on a tag which can be placed around a child; fans under the age of 14 are not allowed on the pitch; and there are seven lost children information points in the stadium.
"I'll remember this concert forever," Rionnach Doohan (14) from Donegal said. "We'll be talking about this in school for the rest of the year."