| 9°C Belfast

Republic fans join in exodus as luck of the Irish runs out


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

The mass Irish exodus from France continued last night after the Republic followed Northern Ireland out of Euro 2016.

Host nation France came from behind to win a hard-fought last 16 tie in Lyon.

Martin O'Neill's side had led after two minutes when Robbie Brady scored from the penalty spot. But two second half goals from Antoine Griezmann kept alive the French dream of lifting the trophy on home soil.

It was a disappointing result for the thousands of Irish fans packed into the Stade de Lyon.

They were heavily outnumbered by the home nation, but made themselves heard throughout the 90 minutes.

There had been a row after Irish fans were awarded just 4,500 tickets for the game.

French fans waving red, white and blue tricolours and shouting "Allez les Bleus" created a wall of noise in the 59,000-seater arena, the venue for Northern Ireland's group stage win over Ukraine on June 16.

After the final whistle the Irish players went over to applaud their fans.

O'Neill said it was hugely disappointing to exit the tournament.

"I think the team has done fantastically well, hence my disappointment at not going through today," he said.

"France definitely were very, very strong in the second half. They have very good players.

"We brought heart and soul into the game, as has become almost a prerequisite for us, but more importantly than that we played - we played in the tournament. Some of the younger players have come of age and it's up to them to take it further.

"I don't think reaching the last 16, while still an achievement, is something they would want to just rest on."

Despite the loss, the Republic's battling display won plenty of plaudits.

Former Northern Ireland captain Neil Lennon tweeted: "Game of the tournament so far. Ireland were brilliant and France eventually came alive and showed class".

Belfast Telegraph