Belfast Telegraph

Ireland rugby fans flock to Twickenham for Six Nations day of destiny

Tony Breen (second on left) with wife Tricia (third from right) and friends from Armoy at Belfast International Airport yesterday
Tony Breen (second on left) with wife Tricia (third from right) and friends from Armoy at Belfast International Airport yesterday
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Irish rugby's day of destiny has arrived - and excited fans are heading to Twickenham en masse to roar them on to Grand Slam glory.

A win at the home of English rugby in their final Six Nations fixture will secure only a third clean sweep for Ireland.

And, as if by fate, the match falls on St Patrick's Day.

The excitement was building at Belfast International Airport yesterday, with an eight-strong army of supporters from Armoy, Co Antrim, moments away from boarding.

"We can't wait, we're like children coming up to Christmas counting down the sleeps," said Tony Breen (36). "Hopefully Ireland will get it, it's going to be close but they'll have an extra couple of gears in them."

With hopefully more excitement to come, he picked Johnny Sexton's nailbiting drop-goal at the death in Paris as his Six Nations highlight so far.

Tony's wife Tricia was treated with tickets to the Grand Slam decider for her 40th birthday.

"Rob Kearney's my favourite player this year, but Conor Murray's not bad either," she said.

Leona Devlin (38) said: "Ireland are definitely going to win. We have half of Armoy here to cheer them on so they can't lose."

Frank Bouchart said the prospect of taking his seat amid 80,000 fans at Twickenham had him "feeling 110%".

"These tickets were very hard to get, I've never been to Twickenham before. Ireland are going to get it by seven points I think because England are down at the moment and we're hopefully going to keep them down," he said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster also voiced her support to Ireland's Ulster cohort.

"Rory Best has captained his team to top of the leader board in this year's Six Nations and is to be congratulated on winning the Championship," she said.

"It would be absolutely wonderful if Ireland can go further and win the Grand Slam."

Mrs Foster said she was "equally delighted" to see the success of Ulstermen Jacob Stockdale, Chris Farrell and now Iain Henderson.

Also counting down the hours before a sea of green descends on London, was Armagh rugby club captain David Loughran (27).

"I'm very lucky to get the tickets, even before the tournament started everyone figured this would be the decider," he said.

"I think it will be very tight, Ireland just need to win. That means it mightn't be a great game of rugby to watch for entertainment but if they get over the line with a one-point win that's all they need."

He said comments by England coach Eddie Jones, where he referred to the "scummy Irish" side in a speech last year, would only focus Ireland's resolve.

"It adds a bit of fuel to the fire, but Joe Schmidt's no stranger to mind games," he said.

"I've every faith in Ireland, they're a quality team and they will get over the line."

Jim Irwin (58) and Stephen Revels (63), both from Newry, Co Down, flew into Heathrow Airport yesterday morning with two other friends.

The group, who were enjoying pints in Waxy O'Connor's, do not have tickets but said they will have a great day on Saturday regardless.

Mr Revels' confidence of an Irish win is sky high: "It's a done deal."

Mr Irwin said they had taken the day off work for the festivities, adding: "There will be nothing to match it. It will be brilliant."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph