Republic of Ireland soccer fans from Derry will be returning home this week after the ‘Boys In Green’ were knocked out of the European Championships by hosts France in Lyon on Sunday.
Martin Mullan and his son, Barry, were at Sunday’s game against the French.
“We lost the match but won the hearts of millions,” said proud Derry man, Martin.
“Words probably can’t describe what it felt like over the last week. Sunday was another day of feeling like if you were from Ireland, you were the super hero - the fans from every other country wanted a piece of us,” he added.
Martin, who is also a director of Derry City FC, said he was proud he was able to share the experience with son, Barry.
“As we walked into the stadium the only noise was Irish chants - this is because the French were also singing along.
“It was beautiful before and after each match listening to French compliments about how the Irish have saved the Euros and this came from their hearts .
“We are on on our way home now. We had to travel from Lyon to Paris getting the Euro Star to London and then I’m flying back to Derry tonight and Barry is flying to Liverpool.
“I was proud to have my son with me, but we were both proud of the example that the people of Ireland have shown to the next generation of what sport should be about.”
Martin and Barry appeared on television screens during Ireland’s games with both Italy and France.
“We are coming back to dog’s abuse about the television cameras spotting us at every match,” said Martin.
“We have been on every radio station and on the Nolan Show and we also owe a big thanks to our employers and our wives who thought we were coming home last week,” he laughed.
Niall Moyne from Woodbrook West travelled from Lyon to Paris yesterday where he caught the Eurostar back to England. “The football, supporters and the adventures have been great,” said Niall who attended every Irish game in France.
“The French really welcomed us. We are all exhausted now and still have the Eurostar and a flight to catch.”
Meanwhile, the journey of a lifetime for Northern Ireland fans also ended at the weekend when they lost to Wales on Saturday.
Michael O’Neill’s team gained immense respect during the tournament after they beat Ukraine 2-0.
It was the first time Northern Ireland had ever competed at a European Championships finals but it all came to a cruel end on Saturday when defender Gareth McCauley put the ball into his own net as they took on Wales in Paris.