Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody defends Republic of Ireland football support
SNOW Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody has defended cheering on the Republic of Ireland during Euro 2012.
The Northern Ireland born singer, a fully fledged supporter of his home country, has been attacked online for supporting both sides.
"I'm a Northern Ireland supporter for sure," he told the Press Association.
"But the Republic of Ireland are in this tournament and I'm getting behind them. It's a tricky subject but they would always be my second team.
"I've not really seen too many reasons for me not to support them but I know other people have their reasons."
Lightbody faced a raft of online abuse after declaring on Twitter support for the Republic, his second team, as he says.
"All my tweets are just about spreading love," he said.
"I'm green and white army, no doubt, but I'll also support the Republic when they play."
The singer followed that up by calling on Ireland fans to go to the gig at the Centrum Stocznia Gdanska, an old warehouse in the shipyard where German u-boats were built in the Second World War 2.
He said he hoped the Republic would win Euro2012 and also used Twitter to say he "had enough politics growing up in Northern Ireland in the eighties. I like to try and spread joy now. Life is short."
Lightbody and bandmates guitarist Nathan Connolly, bassist Paul Wilson, drummer Jonny Quinn and keyboardist Tom Simpson met the Ireland team in Sopot before playing concert to about 2,000 fans, half of them were green jerseys.
John O'Shea is one of a number of fans in the Irish squad and has seen the band play in Manchester.
"It was a chance to meet the team so we grabbed it with both hands," Lightbody said.
"We should be very proud of them."
Snow Patrol had wanted to play on the day of the Ireland-Spain match but had to reschedule due to commitments at a festival in Finland.
The Irish/Scottish five piece, who have sold over 11 million albums, rank a previous gig in Poland while touring with U2 as the best, or at the very least in the top three, of the tour with the Irish megastars.
Four fans of the band arrived early to pick up pre-booked tickets.
Bryan Breen, 30, and Brian Crooke, from Whitehall and Stoneybatter in Dublin were with Mick Nagle, 32, now living in London and their chef and chemical toilet emptier for the Euro2012 trip, Noel Skehan from Tipperary.
"We've seen them a few times and we were hoping they were playing at 4pm so we could watch the match," Mr Nagle said.
"It's was a small gig, intimate and we're glad to catch the surprise act."
At the concert a mix of football and Snow Patrol fans were quick to back Lightbody's stance.
Ryan Molloy, born in Strabane, Northern Ireland but living most of his life over the border in Donegal said supporting either team was no different than cheering for the Premiership sides in England.
"There's always going to be these wee things but we are on the one island," he said.
"Gary Lightbody can say what he wants. What's the difference in Irish fans supporting Liverpool or Chelsea or Man Utd?"
Shauna Cunningham, from Fintona in Tyrone, said everyone should be happy when either team does well.
"If the Republic and Northern Ireland are doing well then all the better," she said.
"We're not Poland and Russia. It's ridiculous he has been attacked for saying what he did. It's the one land mass.
"I'll very much support the Republic no matter what I do, I was born and bred in the north, I'm a Tyrone woman, and from a woman's perspective it's just football. I don't believe in not supporting both."
Paul Murphy from Ballybofey in Donegal but living in London said he would cheer a Northern Ireland goal when it comes to big games.
"If Lightbody came out there in a Northern Ireland jersey I wouldn't have passed any heed to it," he added.