Geneva braced as Munster hordes invade for historic Heineken Cup clash

MUNSTER’S next European destination, Geneva, is bracing itself for the mother of all invasions as the Red Army gears itself up for its historic first Heineken pool match in the Swiss Alpine city on Sunday.

An estimated 10,000 Munster supporters are expected to descend on the picturesque city of just 180,000 inhabitants, arriving to the 30,000 seater Stade de Geneve by plane, train and automobile.

While there was understandable anger amongst Munster supporters at ERC’s decision to fix Munster’s Heineken Cup round five tie against Bourgoin for a Sunday — their third-in-a-row in this year’s Heineken Cup campaign — a number of the travel agents chartering flights to the match are almost fully booked.

Killester Travel, which work closely with the Official Munster Supporters Club on away trips, are fully booked having chartered two flights from Shannon and one each from Cork and Dublin.

Glen Flanagan, Munster Supporters Club PRO, says the novelty of Switzerland holding its first professional rugby game and the passion of Munster fans, who have built up a reputation in following their team, are some of the reasons why he expects at least 8,000 present.

“We’re tied in with Killester Travel who offer our members discounts on all our flights,” said Flanagan. “Many, many more will find their own way to Geneva but you’ll definitely see 8,000 Munster fans in the stadium.

“There was an awful lot of anger when they heard it was on a Sunday and people have had to readjust their schedules.

‘‘It’s the third time in a row this has happened this season but it would take something like a nuclear bomb to stop the Red Army from travelling.

“People, for example, are flying into Paris from Cork and Shannon and then getting the TGV down to Lyon,” added Flanagan.

“They’ll stay there for one night, then make another two and half train journey across to Geneva, stay there for a night and back again.”

Irish holidaymakers on skiing trips in central Europe will also make their way to Geneva for the game, according to Flanagan.

Pat Dawson of Dawson Travel has said demand for this match is “unprecedented” and confirmed that up to 900 will fly out of Cork and Shannon as well as 200 from Dublin through his company.

“The demand is unprecedented for a pool match.

‘‘It just shows the extra supporters that come on board as a result of their great win last year. I would expect between seven and ten thousand Munster jerseys at it.”

Declan O’Connell of Lee Travel still has limited availability for a charter flight leaving Saturday and returning after the game.

The Stade de Geneve will become the 80th stadium to stage Heineken Cup matches.

“We have given over 2,000 tickets to French schoolchildren and over 1,000 to schoolchildren from Geneva to offer as many potential rugby fans as possible the chance to experience Heineken Cup rugby,” said Director of Bourgoin Rugby Pierre Raschi.

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