Northern Ireland

Euro 2016: Football fans from Northern Ireland have pulling power at finals

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Media captionNorthern Ireland fans converted a caravan for their road journey to France, as Mervyn Jess reports

Football fans from Northern Ireland are making their pitch for the most creative ways of getting to the Euro 2016 finals in France.

Lee Brooks and his five friends raised the bar on Tuesday when they headed off in a revamped second-hand caravan that could turn more heads than the Can-Can.

He said the 'carafan' was a way of cutting costs while highlighting Northern Ireland's achievement in reaching their first major tournament in 30 years.

But although the chef will be driving hundreds of miles after the group reach Cherbourg via ferry, he has a simple formula for kicking cooking into touch.

Image caption The caravan includes a tribute to Northern Ireland striker Will Grigg who plays for Wigan Athletic

"I am a chef, that's why I ripped out the cooker," he added. "I don't want to cook on holiday, I feel I'm already doing enough with the driving.

"I am doing the driving the whole way as my brother injured his hand playing football for the Northern Ireland supporters' team and had to get five stitches.

"Nice here we come, I don't know what they will think when we hit the town. "People will probably say 'what is this?' I think it will be a positive thing as it is a bit different."

Image caption Lee Brooks will be driving hundreds of miles during the trip and will take in Northern Ireland's group games against Poland, Ukraine and Germany

Lee spent two weeks sandpapering and painting the caravan which will provide accommodation during the fans' 16-day trip.

They have secured tickets for Northern Ireland's three group games in Nice, Lyon and Paris and Lee hopes some of Michael O'Neill's players will take time out to pop in for a chat.

'Memories for life'

"I hope some of the boys will have a sit in with us," he said. "We have painted a message saying this is the team hotel on the side of the caravan, so it would be nice for them to drop in."

Image copyright Peter McKeever
Image caption Daniel O'Donnell features on the back of a double decker bus converted by Republic of Ireland fans

A group of Republic of Ireland football fans have moved their transport options up a gear by customising a double-decker bus for the finals.

Peter McKeever, from Cullyhanna in County Armagh, said he and his friends had converted the vehicle over a period of two months after purchasing it in Dublin.

"Ten of us clubbed together to buy it and get it ready," he said.

"There was a lot of work involved, we have put in bunk beds and tables as well as fridges and we have a barbecue.

"We have stickers on the back of Daniel O'Donnell with the words 'Mammy we will be grand', Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are on the side and there is a slogan on the bus which says 'We are not here to take over, we are here to take part'.

"Eight of us have licences for driving lorries and buses anyway, we thought it would work out cheaper and the craic would be far better than hopping off and on planes.

"This will create memories for life. We will take every game as it comes, but hopefully we will be there for a good while."

Image copyright Peter McKeever
Image caption The group plan to travel to Paris, Bordeaux and Lille in the vehicle which they purchased in Dublin

Alan McClure from the Four Winds area of Belfast will be camping out during his stay at the tournament and will also be attending Northern Ireland's three group games.

He and his wife, Anne, shared a tent when Northern Ireland qualified for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.

Unfortunately Anne is unable to make the Euro 2016 finals due to work commitments, but Alan will be accompanied by his son Michael and his French partner.

"At the World Cup finals in Spain in 1982 it was different," he added.

"In Spain all the games started at 9pm, so you were able to spend your time at the beach during the day and go to the games at night, it was a great combination.

Image copyright Alan McClure
Image caption Northern Ireland fan Alan McClure (right) with his son Michael who are travelling to the Euro 2016 finals in France

"There is great flexibility with the camping. I am heading to Cherbourg by ferry and then driving down to Nice where I will meet my son Michael and his partner Camille who is from Lille, they are going to the three group games as well.

"My daughter Alexandra and her boyfriend Paul are joining us for the game against Ukraine in Lyon.

"It will be very interesting, hopefully we can have a few barbecues on the way as well. I think Northern Ireland can go there with a lot of confidence."

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