Emmett Vaughan from Bantry and Stephen Murray from Rosscarbery were at the airport ready to fly home, the day after that magical night in Lille, when they changed their minds and hopped on the train south to continue following the Irish team.
“We were supposed to be flying out on Thursday; we were at Charles de Gaulle Airport,” Stephen said.
“Then we saw the TGV and decided we’d go and crack on,” Emmett explained.
“We had thought about it the night before, after the win and we were humming and hawing all the way on the way down, so we said ‘we’ll go for it’,” said Stephen.
He said finding tickets for tomorrow’s game against the hosts has been ‘tough going’.
“There are a lot more Irish coming in tonight, so you’d never know. I’ve heard one story of a fella who got a ticket off an English fan just a while ago.
The Englishman had bought the ticket for the quarter-final ages ago, sold it on to him at face value. We’re hopeful we’ll pick one up. If we don’t, the fanzone will be brilliant,” he said.
Emmett said they now have return flights booked for Tuesday; and with school out for the summer, the two teachers luckily don’t have to sort time off work.
The pair were enjoying the mellow ambiance outside The Saint James Irish bar in Vieux Lyon, the historic old town in the city centre, with distinctive narrow cobbled streets and buildings dating back to medieval and renaissance times.
The handful of those sporting green jerseys were sitting shaded from the heat, which remained in the 30s well into the evening. The Irish who have mobbed bars such as the Connemara in Bordeaux and Tír na nÓg in Lille had yet to converge on the neighbourhood’s Irish bars yesterday evening, but Igor Calmet, the manager of The Saint James, said they are ready to greet the new arrivals. “Everyone is working, no days off, apart from myself, because I’m going to try to go the game,” he said.
Having already hosted fans from Northern Ireland when they beat Ukraine in Lyon, Igor said: “We are expecting a lot to come. When Northern Ireland were here it was crazy. It was good fun, good spirit, good craic.
“We were packed. It’s been a really good experience. I loved it. It was like having Paddy’s Day three days in a row.”
With tickets hard to come by, Ann-Marie Brannigan from Drogheda, Nicky Carpenter from Slane, and Simeon Murray from Donegal were just off the train outside the Gare de Lyon-Part-Dieu and were exchanging stories of how they got tickets.
“I just got sorted there today. Well...I’m about 90% sure,” Simeon said.