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Red Army (and that flag) march on Montpellier

THE players themselves have yet to arrive, but the resounding roar of Munster's Red Army is already rumbling in southern France.

The locals of Montpellier are well aware that an invasion is about to happen and preparations have been under way all week to get ready for what is being touted as the biggest sporting occasion of the year.

By this evening, the Heineken Cup semi-finalists will be enjoying some down time ahead of tomorrow's clash of titans on the field.

They'll go head-to-head with a French team who have enjoyed a 100pc record in this season's competition.

Last year ASM Clermont Auvergne lost to Joe Schmidt's heroic Leinster side, who went on to claim their third European title.

This year, the streets of this beautiful architectural city will be alive with the spirit of the 16th man.

Supporters began arriving yesterday morning and dedicated ex-pats in the area have been at work to ensure that everything is in place, stocking up on extra food and alcohol.

Among them is Nico Holmes, a Dubliner living in the vicinity for nearly 20 years and owner of renowned haunt Fitzpatricks – one of the designated meeting points for the Red Army.

He told the Irish Independent that he had ordered double the kegs that he had shipped in for the St Patrick's week.

"This is a huge occasion for everyone in Montpellier, we're a rugby town and hosting Munster and Clermont here is phenomenal," he said.

Other meeting points include O'Carolans, O'Sullivans and Robin Hood – all only minutes from La Place de la Comedie.

Cork friends Pauline Burke, Fiona Murphy and Jenny McDonnell went through Dublin and Leeds before touching down in France and Limerick native Rob Noble will join up with a group of seven coming from Germany.

Meanwhile, the well-known 100sqm Munster flag will embark on an eight-stop, 24-hour journey as it makes its way to Montpellier.

An integral part of the Red Army, but not a fan of flying, Limerick man Rob Gloster (56) set out from Limerick Junction train station yesterday.

"I've only missed two games in the past 10 years, I have to be there," he said.

Rob's epic journey sees him pit stop at Dublin Heuston, before heading to Dublin Port.

"I'm getting a ferry to Holyhead, then a train to London Euston," he said. "I'll take the Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, a train to Gare de Lyon and then the TGV for the final haul."

Tomorrow, 32,900 fans will cram the Stade de la Mosson to capacity.

Irish Independent