THEY started out the day and the April showers were relentless. But the rain decided to clear just as the supporters began to arrive outside Stade de la Mosson on the outskirts of Montpellier ahead of the 6pm kick off.
With the sunshine came hope, right down to the last five minutes when they thought there may be a chance of narrowing the six-point lead and claiming a converted try to score a win.
But sadly it was not to be for Rob Penney’s side and the dream of European glory came to a heartbreaking end.
The Red Army was sorely outnumbered, filling only a pocket of the stadium compared to the wall of blue and yellow ASM Clermont Auvergne fans.
However, they sang and cheered as if it were their last breath and following the disappointing semi-final, Penney commended the crowds’ efforts in lifting his team at crucial points in the game.
“I’m really sorry we weren’t able to get a result for them, the boys were desperate to do well for the support on the trip – but also for those who couldn’t make it over,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I would say to those who trekked over, that I hope they’re proud of their boys, because they gave it everything and had nothing left in the tank.
“They were up against a side of international standards.”
Penney also said that the support from the stands during the 80-minutes is particularly noted by the young players on the field.
“The Red Army are loyal and the boys love it when they’re there – it really lifts them. Actually even the Clermont fans added to it, the whole atmosphere was fantastic and it feeds energy.”
The travelling Irish will gradually make their way home over the next 48 hours, while the team and their families flew out on Saturday night.