One Direction hysteria hit Belfast like a whirlwind as the teen heart-throbs arrived in the city for four sold-out shows.
From early morning social networking sites were buzzing with reported sightings of the chart-topping five-piece, as devoted ‘Directioners’ mounted a watch to keep tracks of the band’s movements. A rumour that the boys might stay in Dublin and travel to the Odyssey Arena each day proved to be a red herring and instead, they booked into the five-star Culloden Hotel, where they stayed last year.
Band member Harry Styles was spotted working out in the hotel’s gym while Mullingar lad Niall Horan was holed up recording material with several members of McFly. A small group of fans gathered at the hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of their pop idols.
Schoolgirl Jodie McInally, who is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Belfast, was one of the first to turn up at the Culloden, spotting Harry in the lobby around 10am.
“He waved over but was pulled away by the person he was with,” she said. “I came here on my own but you always meet other One Direction fans and we all get on well because of our love for the band.”
Rebecca Fletcher (13), who was there with her mum, said her favourite was Harry because he was the friendliest. “I met them all before, but Harry broke away from the security people and got his picture taken with me. He was lovely,” she said.
Throughout the afternoon the crowd started to swell, despite the rain and the cold temperatures. The arrival of police motorcycles and two tour buses sent the fans into a frenzy.
Security was tight around the hotel and the fans were warned to stay back.
But around 4.15pm, their patience and devotion was rewarded when a member of the management team approached the group of freezing schoolgirls and told them they would all get the chance to meet Harry, the youngest member.
This news was received with another burst of hysteria and the crowd of 50 or so was divided up into small groups of five and led over to the tour bus to meet the floppy-haired teen.
Sullivan Upper teenager Stephana Wise and her friends were in tears after their surprise meeting. “I’m just so overwhelmed,” she sobbed. “I love Harry and I can’t believe I got to meet him.”
At the Odyssey Arena, several hundred Directioners braved the cold to stand at the back gate and await the arrival of the tour buses.
Among them was Belfast girl Aimee McMurray (14) and her friends Cheryl Graham, also 14, and Courtney Glenn (13). The schoolgirls had been there for six hours and were shivering but determined to see the band arrive.
As the buses pulled up, the screaming began.
Mobile telephones were raised high to take pictures of the blacked-out buses and the crowd started to chant: “Let’s Go, One Direction.”