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Nail-biting 90 minutes at fanzone in Dublin

It was a day of firsts and lasts for the short-lived fanzone in Dublin’s Smithfield.

Several thousand fans, families and teenagers packed into the old market square after the city council put up a big screen for the knock out last 16.

Among those making their debut was six-month-old Cara Sheridan, cradled among the crowds by proud father Paul, from Lucan.

“We had her at home for the last match and we were in the Penny Hill for one of the others,” he said. “But this is the fist she’s been at outdoors.”

Unfazed by the noise and packed crowds the infant grabbed at anything green, white and orange.

“She’s quite happy with the noise, her mammy Anita is an Irish dancer so she’s use to it,” Mr Sheridan said.

The crowds had only just begun to settle into their viewing spots when Ireland went ahead from the penalty.

Queue another 88 minutes of bitten nails, shaken heads and curious looks at a small but boisterous group of French students.

Leslie Rose, 26, from Paris but studying in Dublin for the summer, was magnanimous despite her compatriots playing the better football.

“It was very stressful but even if we had lost it would’ve been OK – we would support Ireland,” she said.

“We want to thank the Irish fans in France – they made it.”

The fanzone was put up after a decision by Dublin City Council to give supporters a focal point on the back of the victory against Italy.

And it paid off, albeit for a few brief hours, with a family-friendly atmosphere on the old cobblestoned square.

Another first was Aine O’Rahilly was in Smithfield with her friend Patsy Kavanagh who has never watched never mind been to a football match.

“I didn’t understand what all the running up and down was about at first,” Ms Kavavagh said.

“But the atmosphere was brilliant, the fans are unbelievable.

“That would encourage me to go to more.”

The women, in their 50s and from Tallaght, were decked out in Tricolours and hats along with thousands of others for the important day.

Ms O’Rahilly said: “I thought I was going to have a heart attack when we scored.

“Now I’m absolutely devastated for the players.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has spoken of his pride in the Irish team and congratulated them on helping to make it a memorable tournament.

“The Irish team and its fantastic supporters have done the nation proud, and represented us abroad in the best possible way,” he said.

“The ‘can-do’ spirit of the team, and the remarkable friendliness and bonhomie of the Irish supporters has made them every other country’s second team at this championship.”

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Mr Flanagan said football fans on both sides of the border have created memories that will be cherished for years.

“The supporters of both teams excelled themselves as ambassadors for this island, and it was a great source of pride to see that every French city had the welcome sign out for the Irish supporters,” he said.


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