Wednesday 11 December 2019

I slept in flag at train station during Italia 90 - award-winning businessman

John Mullins. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
John Mullins. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel

Twenty-six years ago he was a cash-strapped student at Italia '90 who slept at Palermo railway station proudly wrapped in the Irish flag.

Now, he ranks as one of Ireland's most successful businessmen who previously led Bord Gáis and who is overseeing the dramatic expansion of solar energy firm Amarenco, with €250m worth of assets in France and plans for a €100m-plus investment in Ireland.

John Mullins also boasts the unique honour of cheering the Green Army on at Euro 2016 in France having just received that country's highest accolade, the Legion d'Honneur.

The prestigious award was bestowed on John by President Francois Hollande in recognition of his major contribution to Franco-Irish trade and development.

"I love all sports - rugby, Gaelic games and football," he said.

"I will be in France for Euro 2016 and, hopefully, it will have the same kind of atmosphere for Irish fans that Euro '88, Italia '90 and USA '94 generated."

John had just graduated from University College Cork when he headed to Italia 90.

"Like most students I'd very little money. I ended up one night sleeping at Palermo railway station wrapped in the Irish flag," he said.

"But they are absolutely incredible memories and I'm so glad I was there."

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