Tuesday 24 October 2017

Dragons' lair over-run by Green Army ahead of 'win or bust' clash

Ireland fan Eileen Fitzgerald from Kilkenny Photos: Matthew Horwood
Ireland fan Eileen Fitzgerald from Kilkenny Photos: Matthew Horwood

Ryan Nugent in Cardiff

Kicking, shouting, screaming ... that was just the Green Army in a Cardiff bar as Scotland's dropped points handed Ireland and Wales a winner-takes-all clash.

By half time, such was the tension with the Scots leading, there was no Heineken and Bulmers left on the taps.

The beer that was left over however, found an odd home at full time ... the ceiling of O'Neill's, the city-centre Irish pub.

Last Thursday, Irish fans cheered for a Scottish win, but the tables had turned three days later.

Ireland fans Keith Flynn, Laura Carroll, Peter Byrne, Eunan Bonar and Liam Nicholas all in
Cardiff for the big match. Photos: Matthew Horwood
Ireland fans Keith Flynn, Laura Carroll, Peter Byrne, Eunan Bonar and Liam Nicholas all in Cardiff for the big match. Photos: Matthew Horwood

Slovenia had read the script, written in green ink - and if Martin O'Neill's men pull it off later on today, Ljubljana may become a tourism hotspot just to show our appreciation.

Either way, Wales may not be getting Cardiff back, not if the Irish have any say on the matter. The invasion began on Saturday but was in full swing by 5pm yesterday - just imagine the scenes if O'Neill's men win tonight.

Most arrived at the airport like zombies on Sunday - a 5am start can knock the stuffing out of the most excitable members of the Green Army.

But an early pint put a pep in the step, even for the thousands flying over without a match ticket.

"Do you do the lottery? You've a better chance of winning that than getting a ticket for this ... they're gold dust," one pointed out.

"Ah, you've got to believe though," he was told.

With more than 9,000 applications and fewer than 3,500 away seats, something had to give.

Despite hen's teeth being easier to come by, it didn't stop thousands travelling to Cardiff in the hope of picking one up.

Eileen Fitzgerald (27) from Kilkenny was one of the lucky ones with a ticket - the catch was that she was with her brother Michael (22), who didn't have one.

She, like many others, has been keeping it in a safe place. Nobody can be trusted it seems, not even siblings. "He'll try [to take it], he'll definitely try when I'm asleep," she joked.

The pair are confident of getting their hands on one more, even with the crazy prices being bandied about.

There was even a bidding war when it came to anecdotes. One fan had heard £300 being touted, another heard £500.

Meanwhile, the trip has already taken it out of some.

Shane Smith (18) and Tadhg Browne (18) from Swords and Ashbourne, effectively travelled over directly from the Aviva Stadium on Friday night - with just a couple of hours sleep logged in between.

"We got the ferry over, so we were up at half four on Saturday morning to get to Rosslare and then out last night, so we're dying today," Shane said.

Aoife Cleary (26) from Lusk, Sinead O'Flaherty (32) and Andy Whelan (40) from Navan - all part of the Meath branch of the Irish Supporters Club - were similarly in the midst of a long day.

"I left Navan at 3.20am and we got a flight to Birmingham and got the bus down," Andy said.

But tiredness didn't prevail, positivity did. Everyone that came over was already envisaging a victory.

Michael Farley (23), from Enfield, Co Meath, was ready to give Wales "a good rattle".

Get ready for tonight.

Irish Independent

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