The World Cup Irish Army invade Rotorua

Source: Kieran Nash, [excerpt]

Sunday, 25th Sept, 2011

[…] Traveling Irish supporters have invaded Rotorua.

Irishmen Jim Kelly has brought his campervan to town. Photo / Doug Sherring

State Highways 1 and 5 into Rotorua were backed up for kilometres as hundreds of campervans and cars packed with Irish supporters made their way into town.

The 26,000-capacity Rotorua International Stadium sold out on Monday. Rotorua District Council’s Peter McLeod said they could have sold another 10,000 tickets for the game against Russia.

“Town is buzzing. The bars, restaurants and hospitality areas in the city are packed.

The Irish are great guests, their enthusiasm is contagious. They come along and enjoy themselves.”

A Fanzone has been opened earlier than expected to accommodate the overflow of rugby fans.

The contingent of travelling fans was swelled by The Tullow Boys, a 25-strong legion of fans from the hometown of star flanker Sean O’Brien.

“You can’t miss ’em, you won’t miss ’em,” he told the Irish Times.

Yesterday Irish fans packed out bars in town, with one group of tourists having their beer laid on free.

Jim Kelly, 77, had travelled to New Zealand from County Armagh for the cup. “All we’re going to do is winning,” he chortled. “We’re on a winning streak.”

He didn’t want to pick a score for the Ireland-Russia game today. “A win would be enough”.

A publican liked the music of travelling buskers The Craic Band so much that he shouted their drinks and invited them to come back to play today.

One of the musicians, known only as Paddy, said the band were surviving on the generosity of pub owners and generous bar patrons.

“It’s been great craic, New Zealand’s been very good to us and, of course, our Irish brothers and sisters think it’s brilliant,” he said.

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