Rural town's World Cup party for revered Argentine admiral
A FAR-FLUNG west of Ireland town has promised to throw the biggest party outside Buenos Aires tonight if Argentina beat Germany to win the World Cup.
Foxford in Co Mayo owes its special relationship with the South American country to its most famous son, Admiral William Brown, who emigrated from Ireland in the late 18th century and established the Argentinian navy.
As the first admiral of his adopted country's navy, he played a pivotal role in securing the nation's liberation from the Spanish and Brazilian empires and establishing the Argentinian Republic. Brown is so revered in Argentina that a city - Citidad Admiralte Brown - with a population of 600,000, was named after him, along with over 1,100 streets, 320 parks and four soccer stadiums.
So it's little wonder that the 1,300 residents of Foxford, who have maintained strong links with the South American nation ever since, are united in their support for Argentina.
And tonight many will gather in Guiry's pub in the town centre to roar on Lionel Messi and La Albicelestes as they take on Germany in the final in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"We have a great affinity with Argentina here and the contribution that William Brown made there is something we're extremely proud of," says pub landlord Pat Guiry. "Admiral Brown was from Foxford and he is probably still the biggest hero in Argentina to this day. They've never forgotten him there and we've had a special relationship with the country ever since.
"So we've been supporting Argentina all along and we'll all be cheering them on tonight.
"The atmosphere has been brilliant during the World Cup games, but it's going to be a particularly special night here if Argentina win the World Cup," he adds.
Meanwhile, two living popes will find themselves on opposite sides of the pitch for the first time in history for tonight's final. Pope Francis is from Argentina, while his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI, was born in Bavaria in Germany.
However, although both pontiffs' residencies are just a few hundred yards apart, the Vatican's chief spokesman has downplayed any suggestion of World Cup rivalry within the City State.
And according to Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi, the pair have made no plans to watch the final together because the 9pm kick-off is too late for the Pope's routine.
Although Pope Francis is known to be a soccer fan, Benedict - who lives a life of prayer and seclusion in a former convent in the Vatican - isn't known to be much of a sports fan.
And despite his Argentinian roots, Pope Francis - the former archbishop of Buenos Aires - is understood to have remained unbiased in his support for all the World Cup teams since the tournament in Brazil kicked off last month.