Our man in the van: Deluge fails to dampen Irish spirits in Paris

What started as a steady trickle has, in the past 24 hours, become a deluge — the Irish are here en masse.

Our man in the van: Deluge fails to dampen Irish spirits in Paris

While the throngs on Parisienne streets have pockets of yellow, the green swathes leave little doubt as to which team will have the biggest support in Paris tonight.

However these same streets cleared pretty quickly at around 5pm yesterday, when a more literal deluge presented itself. The heavens opened on a miserable and overcast day, with even the hardiest supporter fleeing the open-air fanzone in Parc du Champ de Mars for the sanctuary of the ridiculously overpriced bars in the tourist trap under the Eiffel Tower. “If it buys us a seat out of the rain, I’ll pay it,” one fan was heard saying of the cost of a €9 pint.

Sunday saw thousands more come by plane, train, and boat to add to the already large support here to roar on Martin O’Neill’s men. John Hegarty and Eoin Barrett stood out in their Cork City jerseys as they disembarked the Eurostar in the bustling Gare Du Nord, which echoed with the sounds of ‘Come on Ye Boys in Green’ as the train from St Pancras in London arrived shortly after 3.30pm.

The pair had flown to Stansted to get the train over, and were deep in conversation with one of the dozens of assistants in Uefa gear who were giving directions to the new arrivals. “They’re talking numbers, we’re talking colours,” Eoin said, gesticulating at the colour-coded metro map of Paris.

Both fancy Ireland’s chances tonight.

“We need to get something out of it,” John said.

Contrary to popular opinion, the pair believe there’s more to getting a result in Paris than simply keeping a certain Mr Ibrahimovic quiet.

“We kept Zlatan quiet in Dublin and they still put two past us,” Eoin said of the last time the sides met in a competitive match, a 2-1 loss in a World Cup qualifier in 2013. “I don’t think he’s their only threat, but we have a decent defence too,” he said.

Corkmen Seán Costello, John Goulding, and Mick O’Leary were among thousands of fans of many nationalities soaking up the atmosphere in the fanzone prior to yesterday’s downpour. They had differing opinions on how the Boys in Green will fare tonight. “Ireland are going to win 2-1,” John ventured.

“Sweden 3-0,” Seán predicted pessimistically.

“I think everyone is quietly confident,” Mick said.

“We’ll beat the Swedes and that will set us up nicely for the tournament,” he added.

While the Irish team’s fate is in their own hands, the trio are wondering if other forces may help prolong their own participation in Euro 2016

“We’ve been here since Thursday and we’re here till next week. We’re not staying for the Belgium game at all, but you never know what might happen,” Mick said.

“We’re hoping the strikes will go ahead,” Seán said.

For now, however, we’ll just hope that Zlatan’s workrate drops tonight.

Relaxed mood at odds with Marseille mayhem

It’s hard to reconcile the scenes of mayhem in Marseille with the carnival atmosphere here in Paris — or at least pockets of it.

Unlike four years ago in Poznan and Gdansk, where entire cities appeared to have been taken over by football lovers, it would be hard to know there is a tournament taking place here, based on the crowds that traverse some of Paris’s main thoroughfares.

There wasn’t a jersey in sight as we strolled down the Rue Royale towards the Place de la Concorde on Saturday, but all that changed as we followed the Seine westbound along the quays in the direction of the Eiffel Tower.

The streets surrounding the Parc du Champ de Mars under the iconic landmark are closed to traffic and a heavy security presence forms a ring around the long green area.

“It’s like Dublin on All- Ireland final day,” one Irish supporter remarked as fans from Ireland, Sweden, Croatia, Turkey, England, and more walked together towards the official UEFA fanzone in the park.

Beyond two very thorough searches lies a giant screen showing the games. At the front, fans join in with chants from supporters of other nations. English and Croatian groups stood up, sat down, and had their shoes off for the Boys in Green on request from their Irish counterparts.

Selfies are posed for, and impromptu games are played among the masses, with no hassle apparent in the crowd of thousands watching the big screen.

Towards the back of the park the more chilled-out attendees sit on the grass while mobile bar-tenders dispense pints from a contraption that wouldn’t look out of place in Ghostbusters.

Other parts of town have also been adopted as unofficial fanzones. The area surrounding Gare du Nord, where many arrive via train, has seen its pubs and hostels mobbed with fans, while the cluster of Irish bars in Montmartre have done a roaring trade in recent days. The pubs did a better trade yesterday than on Saturday, with lads in Cork GAA jerseys looking for spots showing the Sunday Game.

UEFA wouldn’t oblige with it on the big screen, unfortunately.

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