Northern Ireland fans head home after winning friends throughout France

Northern Ireland fans
Northern Ireland fans

Northern Ireland’s dedicated fans have begun the difficult journey home after they were eliminated from the European Championships in France.

An own goal shattered their hopes of qualifying for the quarter finals.

It was a bitter end to an entrancing campaign which has won the supporters friends throughout the country.

Neil Robinson, 52, a fireman from Maghaberry in Co Antrim, said: “I am disappointed to go out but we did well to qualify out of the group - we are just happy to be here.

“We love a party. Everything comes to an end doesn’t it?

“It meant the world to me to come here because I missed Spain 1982 and I missed Mexico 1986 (the last times Northern Ireland qualified for a major championship) so I was not going to miss this for the world.”

In the pubs and restaurants close to the Parc des Princes in Paris the supporters socialised with their Welsh counterparts.

The Northern Ireland presence appeared considerably diminished from the group games, with anecdotes about difficulties with travel following the uncertainty of the final first round matches.

At least some supporters missed connections in London Gatwick after a delay involving easyJet at Belfast International Airport.

Gary Gamble from Banbridge in Co Down said: “We have had a ball. The Welsh guys keep telling us how good the Northern Ireland supporters are.

“The Welsh supporters are fabulous. It takes a good set of fans to out-sing the Welsh, we did it today but the camaraderie is incredible, superb, fabulous game.”