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Sunday 18 February 2018

Green Army toasts a little Swede success with €6 pints of beer

Ireland fans brave freezing temperatures in Stockholm before the World Cup qualifier against Sweden at the Friends Arena.
Ireland fans brave freezing temperatures in Stockholm before the World Cup qualifier against Sweden at the Friends Arena.

Sebastian Benedikz Stockholm

NEITHER the bitter cold nor the price of the beer could stop the Irish fans enjoying the sights of Stockholm as they invaded Sweden for the crucial World Cup qualifier.

Stockholm was awash with Irish supporters as the Green Army entertained their Viking hosts with a masterclass in how to follow your team.

Officially, there were 2,000 Irish in the stadium but true to form the visiting supporters had managed to get a lot more tickets than their official allocation.

Singing their hearts out to the end, all the effort paid off as Ireland got a valuable point in a 0-0 draw and will face Austria in Dublin on Tuesday with renewed hope of making it to Brazil next summer.

"We came for the weekend," said Paul Hegarty (38), from Glencolmcille, Co Donegal. "We're not going to beat Germany so we need this."

Paul was with Hugh Cunningham and Raphael McGee, also from Donegal, in The Limerick pub in the heart of the freezing Swedish capital, where the temperature was -7C. While most Irish fans were discussing the match, a few raised an eyebrow at the €6 cost of a pint, which saw a lot of them avoiding rounds.

After the lows of 2012 in Poland, last night's point was a huge boost for the team and fans alike. Niall Moyne (33), from Derry, said: "The Euros were depressing. We didn't think we'd qualify again for a while."

Unfurling a large Irish flag, Conor Higgins (28), from Drumshambo, Co Leitrim, was full of hope.

But he added: "I think after this qualification series, it's time for some new blood."

The match was played at the new multi-purpose national stadium, the Friends Arena.

The retractable roof stayed shut as FIFA sided with the Swdes who wanted to keep it closed.

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni and captain Robbie Keane had wanted it open, claiming it would make the atmosphere hostile.

But in the end it meant the fans could watch the game in relative warmth and anyway the Irish raised the roof with their songs.

They may have been outnumbered but the strains of 'The Fields of Athenry' sent shivers down the spine.

Now for the Austrians at a packed Aviva on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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