Scores of Northern Ireland music fans joined more than 75,000 festival revellers as the annual rolling maul known as Oxegen got under way.
Thousands of concert-goers flooded through the gates of the campsites at Punchestown, in Co Kildare, after they opened at noon yesterday.
Less than an hour later, the green fields were transformed into a sea of tents as eager revellers got a head start on festivities.
Leinster and Ireland rugby heroes Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy arrived on their bikes -- part of a group of 30 cyclists taking part in the '2 Wheels 2 Oxegen' cycle in aid of the Christina Noble Foundation. The riders had arrived in Punchestown by 4pm after setting off from Terenure College, Dublin, two hours earlier.
"It's the most training I have done all holiday and offsets the damage I am going to do to myself at Oxegen," Heaslip joked.
"We got some good support from motorists, especially when we came into Kildare, my own town, it was like opening the Red Sea for the lads."
Team mate Healy will be one of Oxegen's opening acts today when he takes to the decks in the Dance Arena at 2pm.
A dance music fan, the Ireland and Leinster player mixes under the alias 'DJ Church'.
"I love the music and just got a set of decks and started messing around. My friend DJ Gordon gave me a few tips. I've done a few gigs in clubs and parties but never anything on this scale before," Cian said.
Voted Europe's best festival for the past two years, among the music fans arriving yesterday were travellers from Europe and the UK.
"We came over for Eminem. We've never seen him before and Oxegen seemed the best place to do it," said Lucy Thompson from Manchester, who came to the festival with fellow 22-year-olds Hayley Bradley and Jen Wood.
With dark clouds hanging over the festival and rain forecast for Saturday night, the weather was on some fans' minds.
Jamie Murphy (18), from Bunclody, Co Wexford, and his friend James O'Connor, arrived through Oxegen's Stonehenge-style entrance with buckets over their heads.
"The buckets aren't staying on our heads, they're for sitting on when the ground gets wet. We got them in the pound shop in Naas," Jamie said.
While arrivals were quickly progressing at the site, travel times varied.
It took students Megan Ryan, Hazel Murphy and friend Anne Marie Donlon, (all 18) five hours to travel up from Galway in a coach.
"It could be something to do with us stopping every few minutes so somebody could use the loo. It seemed to take ages," said Megan.
In marked contrast, Nicola Farrell (19) and friend Laura Carroll (20) from Knocklyon, in south Dublin, claimed to have taken 30 minutes to reach Oxegen, via the park and ride facilities at Goffs.
None of these concert-goers claimed to care about the prospect of rain over the weekend. "We've been to festivals in Spain. We had sunshine but the atmosphere wasn't as good. With Irish music festivals you just expect rain," said Nicola.
There was a strong contingent from Northern Ireland down for the festival, among them Zarah McGuinness (17), Sorcha Doherty (18), and Aimee Marshall (18), all from Lurgan, who we met huddled in their four-man tent.
"It only took three hours and we've pitched our tent. We're snug in here, who cares if it rains," said Zarah.
For those unable or unwilling to pitch their own tents, scouts from Scouting Ireland took the job for a minimum donation of €10 for charity.
With the music officially not starting until today, revellers in the campsites were entertained by Michael Jackson last night. Well not quite -- rather Dublin Michael Jackson impersonator, Anthony Walker.
- Ken Sweeney Entertainment Reporter
Source Irish Independent