Saturday 21 April 2018

A sea of green floods London

FAN FEVER: Gabrielle Madden and Rachel Jennings Photos: Gerry Mooney
FAN FEVER: Gabrielle Madden and Rachel Jennings Photos: Gerry Mooney
Stephanie Butler and Charlotte Dunne. Photos: Gerry Mooney
Naoimh Higgins and Caileen Meehan Photos: Gerry Mooney

Rory Tevlin

A tide of green-clad supporters flooded Twickenham for Ireland's tilt at Grand Slam glory.

They came from Dublin, Mayo, Cork and every corner of the country to celebrate St Patrick's Day in style.

There were a few with sore heads after a weekend of partying in Cheltenham but after a week of beating the English on the racetrack, it was time to do it on the rugby field. As the Irish team bus arrived at 1.15pm, it was greeted by a roar.

It may have been an early start for fans but the energy was electric.

Hip flasks and pints of Guinness were the order of the day. As history beckoned, the travelling hordes were determined to party like it was 2009.

Farrell O'Boy from Ballsbridge, Co Dublin, swapped Prestbury Park for London. "We had some week and this is the icing on the cake," he said. "It's a mighty atmosphere and we came for the silverware."

Conor Lenihan travelled with his pal Bill Jingles, who went to his first Ireland v England encounter in 1962. "It's once in a lifetime really. I wouldn't miss it," he said.

Married couple Philomena and Neil Grey, from Wolverhampton had split loyalties. "I was born in England but I'm Irish through and through," Philomena explained. "My parents are from Cork and Galway. It's a huge day. St Patrick's Day in Twickenham. It doesn't get much better."

Friends Caileen Meehan and Naoimh Higgins (27) were still desperately searching for tickets as game time loomed.

Caileen said: "We will pay the going rate but if we don't get in we'll still have a ball.

"We didn't expect the cold today, but we're convinced it will be a good day for the Irish."

As kick-off approached, ticket touts were doing steady business, banking on deep Irish pockets.

'Herbie' was flogging his wares for £600 apiece and told the Sunday Independent that business was good. "The Irish don't want to miss out on this, do they?"

As the snow showers cleared, the crowds thronged around Twickenham. Plunging temperatures could not dampen the atmosphere as Ireland closed in on history.

Anthony Donnelly and Nuala Kearney from Roscommon said it was the only place to be.

"I was studying in Edinburgh in 2009 and we celebrated the Grand Slam in style there," Anthony said. "Today is something else."

Sunday Independent

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