Fans in high spirits

Kevin Doyle, IN GDANSK

THOUSANDS of fans took control of the centre of Sopot last night where they partied just a few hundred metres from the team hotel.

The town's main square was swamped with Irish supporters who sang relentlessly into the early hours of the morning.

At one point some supporters were hoisted up from the streets and carried aloft in their chairs.

Others climbed lamp-posts for the best vantage points of the remarkable celebrations.

The police presence was minimal as fans were allowed to party without any of the interruptions that we witnessed earlier in the week in Poznan.

Queues for the bars around the square were often 10-deep and many supporters resorted to paying into local nightclubs so that they could buy a drink and then take it back out on to the streets.

The normal chants of 'Stand Up For the Boys in Green' and 'Oh Trapattoni' have now been replaced by a new, more hopeful, 'You're Never Going To Believe Us' song that suggests Ireland will top the group.

By the early hours of this morning there was no questioning that the Irish supporters outnumbered those from any other country in Europe, with the exception of the hosts Poland.

TV crews from other nations have now diverted away from their own teams to get footage of the Green Army in action.

It has been calculated that 32,000 Irish supporters have made the journey here.