VIDEO: Our man in a van: ‘Absolute blast’ comes to an end for most fans

Despite the historic night for the Boys in Green with their brilliant victory over Italy, the holiday has come to an end for many Irish fans who took a fortnight off to follow the team around France.

Tomorrow marks two weeks since the tournament began, and the annual leave is running out for some who have been here in France since the hosts kicked off the tournament against Romania in the Stade de France.

Carol Cassidy from Cork City lives in Co Wicklow with her husband and four sons. She described the past two weeks as “an absolute blast”.

She came in convoy — travelling in two campervans with the whole family, one of her sons and his girlfriend and four other friends.

Irish fans in Lille ahead of the 2016 UEFA European Championship Group E clash at Grand Stade Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Lille, France, as the Republic of Ireland took on Italy. Pictures: INPHO/James Crombie
Irish fans in Lille ahead of the 2016 UEFA European Championship Group E clash at Grand Stade Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Lille, France, as the Republic of Ireland took on Italy. Pictures: INPHO/James Crombie

Prior to collecting their vans, they stayed in an apartment in the midst of the revellery in Montmartre, Paris.

“Paris was brilliant, the craic in Paris around the Moulin Rouge was absolutely super, everyone was in good form,” she said.

The 11-strong group also took in some historic sites on their journey.

Bryan Henry, Tuam, Galway, meets some of the Italy contingent ahead of the game in Lille.
Bryan Henry, Tuam, Galway, meets some of the Italy contingent ahead of the game in Lille.

“We’ve done a little bit of culture, we’ve gone to Versailles, then down to Oradour-sur-Glanne, where the World War II massacre happened and down to Bordeaux for a few nights,” Carol said, adding that they also visited Normandy and war museums.

While positive about the overall experience, Carol did say there were some nights, particularly in Bordeaux and Lille where some fans got “messy”.

“In Lille there was an awful lot of broken glass, one of the girls with us fell and slit her hand on the glass, she ended up in hospital until seven o’clock in the morning getting the glass taken out,” she said.

Ireland supporter Colin O’Leary, from Dublin Hill, Cork City, gets into the swing of things before the match
Ireland supporter Colin O’Leary, from Dublin Hill, Cork City, gets into the swing of things before the match

Despite that, her review of the fortnight was glowing.

“My youngest lad is 16, and from him up to 22 they’ve had a ball. They loved the craic and the football,” she said.

Laura Noble, Andrew Naughton, David Lyons, and Niall McMahon didn’t get to experience the ecstasy of Ireland’s opener against Sweden, having come to France for the second and third matches.

Laura’s highlight was the build-up to the Belgium game.

“Before the game, being around Bordeaux was amazing, the atmosphere around the Connemara pub was brilliant,” she said.

Orla and John Bradley and their daughter Katie from Foxrock in Dublin have followed the team in their car and have a ferry to Cork booked for tomorrow — though John said he has tickets to the next round and could stay.

Meabh Malone, Oughterard, and Shauna Quinn, from Dunmore, as Ireland took on Italy at Grand Stade Lille Métropole.
Meabh Malone, Oughterard, and Shauna Quinn, from Dunmore, as Ireland took on Italy at Grand Stade Lille Métropole.

He described the atmosphere at the Stade de France as his highlight of the trip.

However, Orla revealed that they were late into the Belgium game because of a security scare that saw the trams close, despite it being a false alarm.

“It’s been good fun, our son flew in from New York with his girlfriend, so it has been a family reunion of sorts,” he said.

Gerard Rice from Newry will be dropping his van-load of friends off en route to his own two-week holiday in Italy — something needed after a fortnight of long drives up and down France.

“It’s my own van, I drove her all the way from Newry,” he said.

Micheal Dinneen, Tomas Cotter, and Anthony O’Regan, Macroom, Cork, enjoy the atmosphere ahead of the Ireland v Italy game.
Micheal Dinneen, Tomas Cotter, and Anthony O’Regan, Macroom, Cork, enjoy the atmosphere ahead of the Ireland v Italy game.

“It’s been very good, but very, very, hard going. Tough on the body,” Gerard said, adding he had not consumed too much alcohol due to the motoring but “the lads in the back of the van were making up for me”.

He cited Wes Hoolahan’s screamer against Sweden as his favourite moment of the group stages, and has another highlight to come.

“These guys are going home today,” he laughed, pointing at his group of friends.

“I’m going on my motorbike down to Italy and sending these lads back to work.”

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