Friday 23 February 2018

The wine country awaits as Green Army heads south

Supporters set off in planes, trains and campervans after saying adieu to Paris

Sarah Longmore, Ashling Gibbons, Garry King, Eoin Tuohy, Ben
O’Callaghan and Cian Rafferty prepare to make their way to Bordeaux. Photo: Mark Condren
Sarah Longmore, Ashling Gibbons, Garry King, Eoin Tuohy, Ben O’Callaghan and Cian Rafferty prepare to make their way to Bordeaux. Photo: Mark Condren
Pat Norton, Alex Clevland and (back row) Colm Molloy, Eoin Fitzpatrick, Leon Lewis, Cathal Browne, Joe Cogan and Davis Glynn, all from Co Laois. Photo: Mark Condren

Wayne O'Connor and Ralph Riegel

Parisian luxury has been left behind by the Green Army as legions of Irish fans travel south ahead of Ireland's Euro 2016 match with Belgium on Saturday.

Bags were packed, hotels vacated, tents rolled up and goodbyes exchanged with the locals as the Ireland supporters left a cool and wet Paris for sunny Bordeaux.

A 585km trek means supporters are taking all modes of transport to get there. Train stations and airports have been bustling with Irish fans - but the majority are heading south in buses, cars and campervans.

The French capital had been good to the Irish supporters, with the only trouble coming as fans tried to bring flags onto the Eiffel Tower.

Watch: 'Clean up for the boys in Green' - Irish fans helped tidy up after themselves

A heavy security presence is visible in the area around the landmark, with tourists and fans frisked and searched upon entry.

Eiméar Mulholland said it was here that she and her friends were told they could not enter the tower because they had flags.

"It is very upsetting because it's our first time here," she said.

"They (the security guards) didn't really explain it. We would have been OK if we just had our jerseys on but because we had our flags on us they said there was no way they would let us up with them."

As the fans were setting off yesterday, one group of eight lads from Laois were getting set for a night sleeping in their cars in La Rochelle, just over an hour north of Bordeaux.

Pat Norton had stayed in an apartment in Paris with his friends since they all arrived on Sunday ahead of the Sweden game.

"It was the height of luxury," he said.

"We were bang in the city centre, had a hot tub and a fridge full of beers. Now we just have a bag of them. It's a big change."

The fans had conquered the Montmartre area of the city outside the Moulin Rouge and befriended thousands of locals who were sorry to see the Irish leave.

"Paris was great," said Pat, "but we have tickets for the Belgian game too so hopefully we'll have as good a time in Bordeaux."

The migration is part of a huge effort to get behind Martin O'Neill's team.

Read more: 'Irish fans have already won Euro 2016' - French media outlet pays ultimate tribute

The sleeping arrangements were far better for six recently graduated students from Wicklow and Dublin who were heading for Bordeaux in a camper van they picked up in Berlin a week ago.

Ashling Gibbons from Dublin and Sarah Longmore from Wicklow said the girls were hugely outnumbered among the other members of the Green Army - but it had its perks.

"There was no queue for the toilets in O'Sullivan's bar in Paris," said Ashling. "It's great craic really."

Irish Independent

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