Monday 19 March 2018

#HereToTakeOver - Five times Irish fans overwhelmed sporting venues away from home

Ger Keville

Ger Keville

A world record was broken yesterday when 89,267 fans - the vast majority of them Irish - paid in to watch Ireland beat Romania in the Rugby World Cup.

It was the largest crowd to ever see a Rugby World Cup game and it's not the first time the Irish have made the headlines for making themselves heard.

Ireland v Italy, June 18, 1994 – Giants Stadium

All the talk was that Ireland were behind enemy lines – this was practically a home game for the Italians. Then there was the heat.

Scorching temperatures, the Italians making up the majority of the crowd and then the team itself – Baresi, Maldini, Baggio, Donadoni. The Gods were conspiring against Jack Charlton’s Boys In Green for their opening World Cup game in the Giants Stadium in 1994.

But the script was ripped to pieces.

Of the 80,000 plus crowd in the Giants Stadium that day, the vast majority were wearing the green of Ireland and even Roy Keane was impressed.

"As soon as we went out and the roars hit us, it was like playing at Lansdowne Road,” said the Corkman.

In the 11th minute, Ray Houghton dinked a peach of a volley over the despairing head of Gianluca Pagliuca. Roy Keane was a machine, Paul McGrath an immovable  rock and Ireland went on to win 1-0. Little Italy was breached, the Irish took over.

Ireland v Romania, September 27, 2015 – Wembley Stadium

The meticulous Joe Schmidt is not one to delve into matters off the pitch but yesterday was a bit different.

Irish fans broke a world record as the 89,267 bums on seats in Wembley Stadium eclipsed the previous record for a rugby Test match of 89,014 that saw New Zealand beat Argentina last week.

The result against Romania in Ireland’s second World Cup match was never going to be in doubt but Schmidt and yesterday’s captain Jamie Heaslip were still left in awe at the brilliant Irish support.

“Arriving at the stadium the support was unbelievable,” said Schmidt. “There were red seats but it was mostly green, and the volume was great and certainly encouraged the guys to show their best side and I think they did that at times today.”

Heaslip added: “Romania made us work for it but we’re really glad to come away with the win.  From last week to this week, the support has been amazing, and to have this 90k plus stadium filled out by Irish supporters has been humbling.”

27 September 2015; Ireland supporters during the game. 2015 Rugby World Cup, Pool D, Ireland v Romania, Wembley Stadium, Wembley, London, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Katie Taylor v Sofya Ochigava, August 9, 2012 - Excel Arena London

Breaking records is a common theme for Irish fans on the road so it is fitting that one of our greatest-ever athletes was the focal point for another green invasion.

The record books were rewritten as early as the quarter finals in the 2012 Olympic Games when Katie defeated England’s Natasha Jones. The decibel level during that fight reached 113.7 and was the highest recorded at the Games – until the final.

Taylor went up against Sofya Ochigava in the final in the Excel Arena and the roars of the Irish echoed throughout every Olympic village in the world.

As the Guardian’s Zoe Williams said at the time: “I've done the numbers, there's only one explanation: a lot of people at the women's boxing finals yesterday must have been carrying two flags.

“The ones who weren't carrying them literally were carrying two flags in their hearts. When Nicola Adams won the first gold medal for women's boxing in history, all you could see was the union flag.

“But when Katie Taylor took the lightweight gold, in a way that everybody had predicted but nobody had dared rely upon, there wasn't a soul in the stadium who wasn't Irish.”

France v Ireland, October 11, 2004 – Stade de France

How many Irish fans were travelling to this one was anyone’s guess.

A booming Irish economy meant and extra few quid for fans to make the trip to Paris as Brian Kerr’s men took on the French.

The Moulin Rouge was painted green, the Eiffel Tower might as well have been the Spire and there seemed be U2 tribute bands in every second bar.

It was only when the throngs of Irish entered the Stade de France that there was a sudden realisation that something special was unfolding.

Conservative estimates tell us that up to 40,000 Irish – thought to be an away day record - were in the stadium to witness Ireland draw 0-0 with Raymond Domenech’s men.

Conor McGregor v Chad Mendes, July 11, 2015 – MGM Las Vegas

#HereToTakeOver – the hashtag needs to introduction or description.

Conor McGregor doesn’t just sell out fights – he sells out weight-ins. During his Dublin Tour to promote his scheduled fight with Jose Aldo, there were a reported 60,000 ticket applications for 3,000 seats.

As the man himself says, it’s big business.

And there is no better place to do big business than Las Vegas and so the invasion began. The MGM shook with the noise to leave McGregor’s opponent somewhat bewildered after he was beaten in the second round.

"What's awesome is this, these Irish guys are crazy. I wish we had support like that for everyone here, it's unbelievable the support you show for your athletes and I got to come in here and be a part of it,” said Mendes.

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