Green army on the march
THE VANGUARD of the green army headed for the shores of Wexford on Thursday night, at the start of a mass exodus of soccer fans to support Ireland in the Euro 2016 Tournament.
Mobile homes, cars, motorcycles and even the odd bicycle – one of them being ridden by a charity cyclist from Tuam, Brendan Monaghan, who is riding all the way to Stade d’France to raise funds for cancer care – all lined out at Rosslare Europort on Thursday evening ready to board the Stena Horizon ferry to Cherbourg.
Earlier, a smaller number of fans had boarded the Irish Ferries’ cruise ferry the Oscar Wilde heading for France, among them PJ Browne, from St Leonard’s, with a party from the local soccer club.
Stena, which along with Boyle Sports, had laid on a special reception for its passengers heading for the Euros at the ferryport, said 800 people were booked on the Stena Horizon, along with 62 motor homes and 150 cars.
Not all 62 motor homes belonged to the Irish fans, however, and there were a fair number of German and French number plates among them, some of those on board them taking pictures with their phones as the ‘crazy’ Irish – many from Dublin and the North – arrived en masse.
Boyle Sports had arranged for Ray Houghton, Stephen Hunt and Brian Kerr to be present and they posed happily for photographs with the many children and their parents – most from Rosslare Harbour – who had turned out for the occasion, and were treated to free food and refreshments along with the passengers.
Ronnie Sinnott, from Rosslare Harbour, said he was backing Ireland all the way as was Eileen White from Carne, while Anita Corish, Nora Wright and Nicola Wright were all wearing the green as a sign of support for the national team. None of them were heading over to the Euros, but would probably end up watching the main matches at home on TV.
‘God keep us, why would the likes of us be going to the Euros,’ said one woman who had turned out to wave her son off.
The issue of security and the threat of terrorism was there in the background, but no one was overly concerned and thought the widely publicised French security arrangement for the games would be a deterrent.
‘I’m not overly worried,’ said Bernard Bryce from Rosslare Harbour who was due to head over at the weekend and was due to meet up with a large groups of friends on Sunday.
‘Naturally, you will have to give yourself more time to get through the security checks, but they are necessary.
Cal McCarthy, who was on holiday in Rosslare, isn’t heading over until June 18.
‘There are four of us old married men who are leaving our wives behind. We haven’t got tickets,’ he said.
Asked about security and the threat of terrorism, he said: ‘We all have to be a little more vigilant and hit the deck quick if something happens, but don’t try to be a hero.’
Former Ireland international and TV soccer pundit Ray Houghton said he thought France, who are the favourites, had a good chance of taking the title.
‘Their defence is a little bit weak, but they’ve got enough to win it,’ he said.
Ray said England face a tough test and it ‘will more difficult for them than people think’.
Another former Ireland international Stephen Hunt, who retired from playing professional football in the UK at the end of the 2015-2016 season, said he thought Ireland would definitely get out of the qualifiers.
Talking ahead of last night’s clash between Ireland and Sweden, he said it was important that the men in green did not lose and it was important too that they came out on the front foot and they needed that key element of self belief.
Stephen said he thought England could win.
‘I think the manager will brave enough and England will do well,’ said Stephen, who hosted his fellow internationals and other guests at his Tides Restaurant at Rosslare Starnd later on Thursday. Stephen, who says he will be in Wexford for the summer, has set up a marquee there for fans to watch all the Euro games.
He also hinted that he might be available for Wexford Youths, with whom he trained earlier this year. although, he said, ‘in fairness they’re doing a good enough job without me.'