Northern Ireland

Irish footie fans: 'Angela Merkel thinks we're at work'

Fans at the airport
Image caption Irish fans with their "Angela Merkel thinks we're at work" flag at Dublin airport.

Skandalös! How about this for a Euro bail-out of a different kind?

Gerry Nolan and his friends from Limerick made this cheeky sign that reads "Angela Merkel thinks we're at work."

Thousands of Irish football fans have put work on hold to support their team in Europe.

Euro 2012 begins today in Poland and Ukraine. Ireland will play their first game against Croatia on Sunday.

The group of friends who all graduated from college in Limerick together left Dublin this morning and posed with their flag at Dublin airport before jetting off to Prague.

The boys plan on taking in the Spain game and the Italy game but are still on the hunt for tickets to Ireland's opener against Croatia.

#donttellmerkel

So why did the boys decide to put such a tongue in cheek message on their flag?

"It was purely a joke, it wasn't political at all.

"We were just talking about getting a really big flag and were having a think about what to put on it. We just wanted to lighten the mood a bit - Germany gets quite a hard time.

They are now hoping the hash tag #donttellmerkel will now start trending on the social networking site Twitter as a bit of an in-joke among Ireland fans.

Mr Nolan, 25, thinks Ireland could win it. "I'm hoping they will do ok. I've booked time off to the final so they would need to do well."

"I think we will do well in our group, I reckon we could beat Croatia and Spain - hopefully we can make sure Spain will be the first county to exit the euro!"

Never mind Angela Merkel thinking he is at work, what do Mr Nolan's bosses say about him taking so much time off?

"We told them there would be no booze or women on the trip. We are here purely for the culture and the football."

BBC News has tried to contact the German Chancellor to see if she had a message for the football fans. We haven't had a response yet.

Perhaps she is too busy with work.

UPDATE: The Merkel flag has now been auctioned to raise money for three year old Oscar Knox from Belfast . Oscar suffers from high risk neuroblastoma.

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