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Thousands turn out for the Boys in Green's battle against the Croats

THEY couldn't make the journey to Poland but they formed their own Green Army at open air events, pubs and cinemas around the country.

As Ireland took on Croatia in their opening Euro 2012 group match last night, more than 5,000 fans packed into George's Dock in Dublin's financial district to cheer them on.

The party was in full flow from 5pm onwards as the crowd gathered to watch the match on a giant screen.

Silence fell over the crowd at kick off, though it wasn't long before groans went up after a header put the Croatians in front. Fifteen minutes later despair was usurped by elation as Sean St Ledger levelled the score.

"You'll never beat the Irish" was heard again until Croatia once again went ahead with two goals either side of half time.

Earlier, hopes were high that the Irish could pull off a win in their first Euro 2012 match but none were higher than that of 14-year-old Shannon Whelan from Donaghmede -- wearing her father's jersey from the country's first foray into the Euros in 1988 -- who predicted a handsome 6-0 trouncing for the Croats.

Marion White from Dublin 7 was looking forward to Trapattoni's team giving the country a much needed boost.

"The whole country is behind them. We need them to get as far as possible to give the country a lift and to bring people together and to forget about the recession," she said.

The more cautious among the crowd were hoping for a draw at the very least. All were enjoying the buzz of seeing the team taking part in a major championship again.

"It's brilliant," said Ian Connell from Finglas, "You only get this in Ireland".

Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan, radio DJ Baz Ashmawy and TV presenter Brian Ormond and his wife, model Pippa O'Connor, were among those who caught the action in the VIP area.

Up to 1,200 fans packed out The Submarine Bar in Crumlin for the match, with people arriving to claim their seats as early as 1pm yesterday.

Patrons were treated to a ride on a Harley Davidson in the run-up to the event and face painters were also available.

The pub, which has been painted green, white and gold for the occasion, is hoping to recapture the spirit of tournaments past, said manager Stephen Halpin.


"We did it 10 years ago for the World Cup and we are going for it in a big way again. The atmosphere is brilliant," he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds more fans throughout the country watched the match with popcorn in hand as IMC Cinemas in Dublin, Athlone, Dundalk, Killarney, Mullingar and Thurles.

The screenings were aimed at families who wanted to capture the atmosphere on the big screen without having to go to the pub.

Irish Independent