Two Northern Ireland fans were injured in an unprovoked attack by Republic of Ireland fans during their visit to Dublin for the friendly 0-0 draw last week.
Andrew Meeke from Dundonald and his brother-in-law Richard Rooney had enjoyed an evening of hospitality with Republic fans in a pub before Thursday’s game.
However, as they walked into the Aviva stadium they were both punched by men wearing Republic scarves over their faces.
Andrew was in a group of around eight fans when the attack happened around 7.40pm on Bath Avenue in the city.
“We were walking down the road to the stadium after having a few drinks at a bar with few Irish fellas before,” he told the News Letter.
“We were drinking away with both sets of fans. And then were all going down the road and chanting ‘Green and White Army’.”
Andrew was wearing his NI top.
“Nobody was really paying us any attention, there was just a bit of banter. There was no animosity, everyone was having craic. The next thing you know I stumbled on the pavement and was scraping my face off it.”
He got up and noticed he was bleeding. “My friend Jason ran up behind me and explained I had just been punched. He was trying to stop the bleeding coming out of the side of my eye.
“My brother-in-law came up afterwards and I noticed he had been attacked as well, there was blood pouring all down his face.”
Their friends caught up with them and explained that they saw three men walking across the road at them. A third NI fan jumped out of the way.
“They were wearing Republic hats and scarves to cover their faces.”
Andrew had only drunk one or two pints while Richard was not drinking.
After being treated in an ambulance they both went on to watch the game – and join Republic fans afterwards.
“The doctor says the swelling will take around a month to go down and that I will be left with a small scar on the left side of my eye,” Andrew said.
His eye was half closed with the swelling while Richard’s closed completely.
“His daughter, my god daughter, can’t really look at him without getting upset.”
However, many Republic fans have since reached out to apologise on social media.
Andrew added: “It wouldn’t stop me going back down to the Aviva [stadium]. I also work in events security in Dublin.
“There is always the few trying to spoil it for the many. The Irish fans were happy with us and welcoming.”
Andrew said he will be satisfied if the attack is properly investigated and if one of the attackers can be brought to justice.
They reported the assaults to Garda minutes after they took place and were told that an arrest had been made.
“They took our details and said they would be in contact,” he said. “We then continued down the red route to the Aviva Stadium to watch the game. I called into Donnybrook station the next morning and reported it to an officer there.” However, a Garda spokesman said they received no report or complaint of assault in or around the game on Thursday.