herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Green Army ready to party - even without match tickets

Michael Byrne, Gaibriel MacSeoirse and Michael Farley
Michael Byrne, Gaibriel MacSeoirse and Michael Farley

An Irish invasion has taken over Cardiff's establishments as - thanks to Scotland's draw with Slovenia - the Boys in Green face a winner-takes-all clash with the Welsh to qualify for the World Cup play-offs.

Ireland needed the Scots to drop points against the Slovenians yesterday, so when the referee blew the whistle for a draw, a packed O'Neill's bar went bananas.

Thousands of supporters, with and without match tickets, turned up in the Welsh capital yesterday morning, determined to help create a party atmosphere.

Just under 3,500 fans managed to get their hands on away tickets for the Cardiff City Stadium - but with more than 9,000 applicants, thousands more travelled over in the hope of getting their hands on a golden ticket.

Scarce

Unlike rugby matches in the city, held at the 74,500-capacity Principality Stadium, the ground used for the football is less than half the size at 33,280, meaning tickets were scarce.

Those without tickets were far from pessimistic about their chances of getting hold of some, while those with tickets had them locked away safely.

Shane Smith (18) and Tadhg Browne (18) from Swords and Ashbourne, effectively travelled over directly from the Aviva Stadium on Friday night, with just a couple of hours sleep lodged in between.

"We got the ferry over, so we were up at half four on Saturday morning to get to Rosslare," Shane said.

Meanwhile, members of the Meath branch of the Irish Supporters Club, Aoife Cleary (26), from Lusk, Sinead O'Flaherty (32), and Andy Whelan (40), from Navan, were all similarly in the midst of a long day.

"I left Navan at half two in the morning, got a flight to Birmingham and got the bus down," Andy said.

Ireland fans Eileen Fitzgerald with brother Michael Fitzgerald in Cardiff
Ireland fans Eileen Fitzgerald with brother Michael Fitzgerald in Cardiff

However, tiredness didn't prevail for the Irish fans, positivity did. The fans who travelled over were already envisaging a victory for the Irish team.

Keith McLoughlin (33), from Clondalkin, said the party had already started last night. "It'll be mad tomorrow, it's only just getting going," he said.

His pal, Brian Clerkin (28), from Whitehall, is expecting tension and nerves come kick-off tonight.

"I'd say it'll be as cagey as anything for the first half. In the second half both of them will have to give it a go, won't they?" he said.

"The important thing is not to panic."

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