Fans dream of ‘greatest Irish sporting day’ as match with France looms
Republic of Ireland fans are hoping for “the greatest day in Irish sporting history” when their side takes on France in a Euro 2016 knock-out showdown.
The boys in green face the tournament’s hosts in Lyon, fresh from their dramatic 1-0 victory over Italy in Lille which was hailed as a “miracle” by delighted fans.
The match comes after Northern Ireland was knocked out by Wales, who advanced to the quarter-finals with a tight 1-0 “Battle of Britain” victory.
It is 58 years since their last major tournament finals but the men from the Valleys are not leaving the Euros 2016 yet, and will play either Hungary or Belgium on Friday.
Many Ireland supporters see Sunday’s match as a chance to get revenge on the French for Thierry Henry’s infamous handball in 2009 which broke Irish hearts.
Henry got away with handling the ball in the build-up to the decisive goal in a World Cup play-off as France reached the 2010 tournament in South Africa at Ireland’s expense.
Fans have been scrambling to get their hands on tickets for the big game with some paying well above face value.
The majority of tickets for the match were initially sold to French supporters during the general sales phase at the beginning of the year.
Ticket touts were asking for as much as 1,000 euro for tickets in Lyon’s sunny fan zone on Saturday.
Aidan McKenna, 41, from County Armagh, bought two tickets – a 55 euro ticket which he paid 250 euro for, and a 105 euro ticket which cost him 300 euro.
But it will all be worth it if their team pull out the stops – and many fans think they will.
Conor Casey, 32, from Dublin, said: “I’m feeling really confident after watching the performance in Lille on Wednesday night.
“Anything’s possible in sport. There’s no reason we can’t do it.
“Robbie Keane to score the winner.”
Aidan McGrory, 33, from County Donegal, said: “Had the best day of my life in Lille against Italy. Hopefully we can replicate that performance and make today an even better day.”
Shane Kenny, 29, from County Tipperary, said: “If it’s not too hot I think we can win it.
“Tipperary people are well used to the heat though. Hopefully they can stick it out and keep going for the 90.”
His brother Joe Kenny, 44, said: “I’ve spoken to a few French people. They’re not over-confident so I think we’ve a good chance.
“If we play like we did against Italy, France will have to play very well to beat us.”
Niall McCauley, 41, from County Wexford, said the match offers up the opportunity for Ireland to get revenge for Henry’s handball.
“What comes around goes around baby. 2009. Henry. Karma. We’re going to beat them in the last five minutes with a controversial goal,” he said.
Joey Sweeney, 36, from County Sligo, said: “Today could be the greatest day in Irish sporting history if Ireland beat the French.
“If the Irish play with passion we could get the outcome we all want.”
James Cooney, 28, from Dublin, said: “It’s been a long hard two weeks but I wouldn’t change it for the world. And when we smash France up in their own backyard it’ll mean it’s going to be a long hard three weeks.
“Might end up with the P45 but sure it’ll be worth it.”
Mark Davenport, 28, and also from Dublin, said: “Lost phone. Missed flight. But today is going to make it worth it. Bring on the French! Come on you boys in green!”