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Fans brave the storms as all-star line-up takes to the stage for Oxegen

FIFTY thousand eager festival goers have already arrived at Oxegen before a band has even taken to the stage -- despite the forecasts of stormy weather.

And by the time Jay Z finishes his set tonight at around midnight, up to 65,000 music fans will have gathered at Punchestown -- with another 15,000 coming tomorrow.

The almost traditional torrential rain and the cancellation of a high-profile act at the last minute failed to stop tens of thousands of Irish music fans making their way to Kildare.

They partied into the wee small hours of this morning as they prepared to enjoy this year's stellar festivities.

But one thing they won't be enjoying is sunshine.

Met Eireann forecaster Jean Byrne told the Herald: "It's not looking good I'm afraid, especially for tomorrow.

"Today is alright, it's predominantly dry for the time being. But there's rain on the way, and will get heavier sometime this afternoon and certainly in the early evening.


"Then there will be more rain at times tonight and tomorrow. It will be on and off right though tomorrow, with some heavy, thundery bursts.

"Sunday looks a little bit better, the whole thing should clear through tomorrow night. Sunday should be better with brighter and sunny spells, maybe there will be one or two scattered showers."

With showers expected all weekend, bosses have issued a fresh reminder to pack appropriately for the occasion.

Organisers reminded fans to "bring their wellies, waterproof clothing, ponchos and bags to stay the day".

But torrential downpours won't stop any of these party people from celebrating the knockout line-up.

Voted the Best Festival in Europe for the past two years, Oxegen has lived up to its reputation with some of the biggest stars on the planet descending on our shores to perform.

A mixture of Grammy award-winning, multi-platinum selling and up and coming artists will appear, including Jay-Z, Eminem, Florence and the Machine, Muse, Arcade Fire, Kasabian, The Prodigy, Paolo Nutini, Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta.

However, one big name conspicuously missing from the line up is six-time Grammy award winning singer John Mayer who cancelled at the eleventh hour, the Herald has confirmed.

The Your Body Is A Wonderland singer was set to take to the stage on Sunday night, but has since flown back to the US citing illness.

But Ireland rugby stars Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip were all too happy to show their faces at the festivities to fundraise for the Christina Noble Foundation, by cycling to the spot.

As Europe's biggest festival kicks off, the pair trekked down to Kildare as Healy prepares to take to the decks in the Dance Arena today.

Healy, aka DJ Church, will be playing in the dance tent at 2pm -- helping to officially kick off the festivities.

"It's the most training I have done all holiday and offsets the damage I am going to do to myself at Oxegen," Heaslip said.

"We got some good support from motorists, especially when we came into Kildare, my own town, it was like opening the Red Sea for the lads."

And the multi-tasking rugby ace said he is looking forward to showing off his skills at the festival.

"I love the music and just got a set of decks and started messing around. My friend DJ Gordon gave me a few tips. I've done a few gigs in clubs and parties but never anything on this scale before."

As the fun got under way, festival fashions were out in full force -- wellies, ponchos and trilby hats has become the uniform of choice -- and in spite of the questionable weather conditions facing them, everyone managed to muster up a smile as they prepared for the weekend ahead.