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Dublin: 2°C Friday 16 April 2021

'I'll always remember it': Fans tell their stories of the Six Nations spirit at Ireland v Italy

Matches against the Azzurri are the focus in this week’s instalment of our ‘Hear The Roar’ series with William Hill.

THE IRISH RUGBY team travel to the beautiful city of Rome for a meeting with the Azzurri at an empty Stadio Olimpico on Saturday. 

Victory is likely to be obtained against the tournament’s minnows, but Andy Farrell’s men are also in need of a convincing performance after two defeats.

In the latest instalment of The42′s ‘Hear The Roar’ series with William Hill — our Six Nations coverage sponsor — we hear from Ireland fans who enjoyed memorable outings when Ireland faced Italy in previous years. 

megan-and-fiona-fitzgerald-with-an-italy-fan Supporters outside the Stadio Olimpico. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Family Ties – John Lee

My family has a lot of connections with Italy. One of my brothers is married to an Italian lady and my sister is married to an Italian-Scottish, Celtic fanatic. Two of my brothers also moved to Italy and ran a sports bar. 

We were there for the 2002 World Cup and the highlight was Robbie Keane’s equaliser against Germany with practically the last kick of the game, which sparked a party of biblical proportions. It doesn’t get better than that — I went every summer with the kids for about 10 years.

My most recent experience of Ireland playing Italy in the Six Nations was at the Aviva Stadium on 10 February 2018. My boss invited me to the match and as we were only four rows from the sideline, so we had a fantastic view of all the tries scored in the second half.

jacob-stockdale-gets-past-jayden-hayward-on-his-way-to-scoring-his-sides-eight-try John Lee in the crowd (centre, wearing glasses) celebrating Jacob Stockdale's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That’s me in the picture, the goon in the glasses with my arm in the air celebrating Jacob Stockdale’s second try beside the bloke in the Ireland monkey hat — my boss Peter.

What a year 2018 was for the Irish team. If the World Cup had been on that September, I think we would’ve had a great shot at winning it!

Many happy memories of Italy v Ireland and I would give my eye tooth to be there this weekend but we’ll be cheering in absentia.

New Work Friends – Shane O’Kelly

Two Italians, an American, a Clare man, a Munster Branch referee and me (from Limerick) walked into the Yacht Tavern in Ringsend ahead of Ireland v Italy in 2018.

We had all just joined a new company and didn’t know each other very well but that was about to change. 

The craic was 90 and the Guinness flowed. The Italians hadn’t been to Dublin before and were bemused that myself and the ref knew so many people in the crowd during the walk up to the ground. 

ireland-and-italy-fans-before-the-game Ireland and Italy fans at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

The match itself wasn’t great but Ireland won well and we went back to the pub afterwards, where a sing-off with the locals ensued. Before we knew it, closing time was approaching and the lads had long since missed their train back to Galway so we walked to Pearse Street and grabbed a fish supper.

One of the Italians dropped his meal on the wet footpath but was so hungry he picked it up and tucked in. We all rolled around laughing. Then we had to leg it — in the rain — all the way up to the quays for the boys to catch the last bus to the west. I still have no idea why I ran with them as I was living in Dublin.

All in all an epic day out and friendships were built that will last a lifetime. Roll on the next time we can all go to a game.

The Lansdowne Roar – Norma O’Kelly

Ireland versus Italy in March 2004 was my first-ever game at Lansdowne Road.

I went with some friends who were home from Paris and the only tickets we could get our hands on last minute were in the schoolboy section, but it was so much craic.

I can hardly remember the match, and being 5ft 2 I probably saw very little of it too. I do know Ireland won as per the usual against Italy and the atmosphere of the old Landsdowne Road lives on in my memory so well. The chanting, the singing and the general banter was electric!

ronan-ogara-2032004 Ronan O'Gara against Italy in 2004. Source: INPHO

A Day To Remember – Neil Seffen

I took my dad down to Dublin to visit the Aviva Stadium for the first time when Ireland played Italy in the 2018 Six Nations. Unfortunately, this was also his last time at a rugby match as he has since had a stroke and is now in a care home full-time.

I have great memories of that day, however, and will always remember the two of us soaking up the atmosphere before, during and after the game.

The Pact – Niamh Lalor

My story isn’t about one particular match but when I unexpectedly moved to London, a lovely Italian took me under her wing, became a great friend and kept me sane. In return I introduced her to rugby.

When I moved home (via the 2011 RWC) we made a pact — every year no matter where in the world we are or what we were doing, we would go to the Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy.

The agreement has provided us with years of amazing weekends but I haven’t seen her in over a year now. It feels very odd ahead of this Saturday’s match — especially as I had booked a flight to Rome — but bring on the Zoom chats. It’s great to still have rugby to discuss.

Do you have an unforgettable story about attending an Ireland Six Nations game? We want to hear from you. Simply email competitions@the42.ie with your full name and where you’re from, and tell us all about it (the year, the city, who the opponents were, what made it so memorable etc) in 150-200 words. Over 18s only. 

Those picked to feature in the series will win themselves a Six Nations matchday hamper that is sure to improve your experience of watching the action from your home.

William Hill are sponsoring The42′s Six Nations coverage this year. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org.

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