I am awakened in my somewhat seedy, dark red hotel room with a chorus of “Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé”. I’m not even mad, I’m just amused. I look out the window to see the iconic Moulin Rouge, but instead all I can see is a splatter of green jerseys cleaning up from the night before.
This is exactly the tone that was set from the Irish camp at Euro 2016. Good natured and (mostly) responsible fun. I have given myself a mammoth task, in trying to put into words what the atmosphere by the Moulin Rouge was like when the Irish were in town. Like St Patrick’s Day on Steroids……. For two weeks.
There were people in fancy dress in 40 shades of green and famous journalists dancing on top of public toilets. We had dance-offs and games of football involving 500 players at a time. Since the 3 Irish bars in a row were all full, we ventured to a corner shop to buy booze, where the owner couldn’t believe his luck; he was selling out of everything! While queuing in the tiny shop with a bottle of Bubbly (for a fiver) a wave of song began
“Well, if you’ve got a wing-o,Take her up to Ring-o, Where the waxies sing-o all the day”
We were learning that the Irish fans were developing quite an online presence and locally, people were gathering to watch and join in with the fun. Children were watching with a mixture of shock and admiration from apartment balconies as the bars slowly began to sell out of alcohol and the party moved out onto the streets……
Match day was nerve racking and we headed toward the Stade de France. I had only bad memories of this place, since the last time I was there was the famous Thierry Henry incident. Oh course I couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to dress up for the occasion and arrived complete with a flashing green tiara and green white and orange false nails!
Security was tight and we had been advised to arrive up to 3 hours before kick off, but luckily a surrounding the ground there was a selection of (albeit overpriced) food and drink. The atmosphere inside the ground was electric and I had a fantastic view from just behind the goal. I had to ask myself why I did this, as the butterflies came and my nerves started to get the better of me. The sound of the National Anthem inside the stadium only increased my anxiety and we counted down to kick off.
A strong Irish side were on top throughout the first half but it remained scoreless. But we came back fighting and Wes Hoolahan put us ahead with a cracker 3 minutes into the second half. The celebrations were somewhat short-lived what an unfortunate OG from Clark put Sweden level. When the game finished 1-1, the mood was low and it felt like a cruel way to draw a match that we had so nearly dominated. Still, we knew that maybe just, we had done enough to put us in a good position. The important thing was, that we were on our way to Bordeaux to face the Belgians.