Josh Willis speaks of wife Samantha's love for the 'Boys in Green'
Heartbroken Josh Willis has spoken of his family's love for the Irish football team and how he hopes to pay a special tribute to his late wife, Samantha, when he next visits the Aviva Stadium for an international fixture.
Both season tickets holders, almost every home international over recent years became a much loved Willis family day out with 14-years old Holly and four-years old Lilyanna joining their parents to cheer on the 'Boys in Green'.
Since Samantha's tragic passing last week, those special memories have offered at least some small piece of solace to the grieving family and Josh believes carrying on the family tradition of travelling to Dublin for games is what Samantha would have wanted.
"We weren't much of a lucky charm at the start," smiles Josh, "Our first game together was the 6-1 defeat to Germany at the Aviva in 2012!"
"Samantha loved the atmosphere; although that may also have been down to some refreshments before and after," he smiled.
"We had so many happy memories from following Ireland, the qualifying campaign ahead of the 2016 Euros, especially Shane Long's goal against Germany, and of course that memorable play-off win over Bosnia."
At that time, following Ireland could be a tiresome experience for Josh, but he says it was always a price worth paying.
"I worked in a bakery back then, which meant starting at 5.30am. Midweek matches meant working until 2pm, rushing home for a shower and a bite to eat and then heading down to Dublin. Weekend matches were better as we could stay over!
"When Ireland qualified to go to France in 2016 I was resigned to watching on TV. By that stage though we were both season ticket members and I applied for, and secured tickets for all the group games. Samantha convinced me that opportunities like that don't come along very often, and so I went. It was an amazing experience."
And Josh revealed Samantha was delighted to see Holly and Lilyanna now following in their mother's footsteps with their love of international football.
Next weekend, Josh is contemplating heading back to the Aviva for the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan. It will be a difficult journey without his beloved wife but brother-in-law, Ronan, who has always accompanied the family to games feels it might be just what he needs at this difficult time.
And cheering on an win for Stephen Kenny's Ireland would have been exactly what Samantha would have wanted!