Euro 2016: Irish fan Jamie Monaghan defies rare condition to collect supporters' award from Paris mayor

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo with Irish fan Jamie Monaghan and Northern Irish fan Jim Spratt Image copyright EPA
Image caption Republic fan Jamie Monaghan and Northern Ireland fan Jim Spratt collected the awards in Paris

Jamie Monaghan's trip to France to follow the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2016 was the journey of a lifetime.

And although it ended in heartbreak when the Boys in Green were beaten by the hosts in Lyon, the County Louth teenager went back in France once more.

He was chosen to accept an award for Irish supporters from the mayor of Paris in the city's fanzone under the Eiffel Tower on Thursday night.

Northern Ireland's Green and White Army were also given the prestigious prize.

Jamie found friendship with fans of both the Republic and opposing teams on his Euro tour.

Image caption Jamie received the prestigious Grand Vermeil from Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo

He was one of thousands of Republic fans who flocked to France to watch Martin O'Neill's men reach the competition's knockout stage.

Such was the strength of the support, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo decided to award the Medal of the City of Paris, known as the Grand Vermeil, to both them and Northern Ireland fans for their "exemplary sportsmanship" during the tournament.

She said Parisians had been "charmed and impressed by their goodwill, their singing and their good humour".


Jamie, from Togher, near Drogheda, suffers from a rare genetic condition called trisomy 9 mosaicism, meaning he cannot walk or talk.

But that didn't stop him from attending every one of the Republic's games with his dad Philip, mum Annette and sister Aoife.

Image copyright Anette Monaghan
Image caption Jamie was joined on his journey around France for Euro 2016 by dad Philip and sister Aoife

Aoife said the football-mad 17-year-old was "all deserving" of his selection to receive the award for his fellow Irish fans.

He met Mayor Hidalgo and Geraldine Byrne Nason, the Irish ambassador to France, who grew up in the same Drogheda estate as Philip, for a mayoral reception before collecting the medal before France took on Germany in Euro 2016's second semi-final.

"We thought that it was all over but it's not," Aoife laughed.

"Jamie got a great reception [at the tournament], everyone loved seeing him in the wheelchair," Aoife said.

"He's really social - it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, he'll want to shake your hand.

"All the fans were really good to him, they came up to him and some gave them their flags - we got a French flag and a Belgian flag."

Image copyright Aoife Monaghan
Image caption The Paris mayor decided to honour Irish fans for their "exemplary sportsmanship" during Euro 2016

Jamie made his way around France in a customised wheelchair with some extra-special features.

Before the family headed for Euro 2016, Philip called in a favour and managed to get the Irish squad to sign his son's wheels.


"My dad went all out and sprayed the wheel covers green, white and gold and sent them for the players to sign," Aoife said.

"And fair play to them, they did.

"Dad literally got electrical tape in green, white and gold and decorated the whole frame - there are very few parts of that wheelchair that aren't green, white and gold!"

Image copyright Aoife Monaghan
Image caption Jamie and his dad were unmistakable in the grounds around France as they flew his tricolour flag

A draw in the Republic's opening match against Sweden in Paris was followed by a brutal beating in Bordeaux by the Belgians.

It was there that Jamie made headlines in French and Irish newspapers when his Jamie On Tour flag was taken from outside the caravan in which he and his dad were staying.

But a French woman read the story and had an exact copy of his flag made and sent to his hotel in Lille just in time for the Republic's match against Italy.

It must have brought the Boys in Green a bit of luck because they chalked up a win against the Italians that will live long in the memory of those there to witness it.

Image copyright Aoife Monaghan
Image caption Jamie found popularity and friendship with opposing fans in France, including these Swedes in Paris

Jamie returned home after that game but flew back to France for the last-16 match.

While the Republic ran Les Bleus close, they couldn't cause an upset, so Jamie and his dad travelled home once more thinking their dream was at an end.


But just after Philip peeled the tricoloured tape off the wheelchair back in Togher, an unexpected phonecall came from the head of the Football Association of Ireland.

Aoife said: "We got a call from the main man John Delaney and he said: 'So, will you do us a favour? Will you bring Jamie over to accept the award?'

"My dad then had to go and do the wheelchair up again, just after taking all the tape off!"

Image copyright Aoife Monaghan
Image caption A French woman had an exact copy of Jamie's flag sent to him after his original was taken

In spite of that extra workload, Philip said it "means so much to us" for his "honoured and proud" son to pick up the medal "on behalf of the Republic's fantastic fans".

Also in Paris was Jim Spratt of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs (AOINSC), who collected the Grand Vermeil on behalf of the Green and White Army.

He said: "As fans, we won the Euros and the team did us proud as well."

And he added that it was "a really proud moment" to represent Northern Ireland fans at the ceremony.

Image caption Northern Ireland fans earned the medal for their "kindness, their chants and their good humour"

The AOINSC plans to hold a celebration event in Northern Ireland that will include the families of supporters Darren Rodgers and Archie Rainey, who died while following their team in France.

"I've followed Northern Ireland round Europe and those that have done that know our fans behave in this way," Jim said.

"But for it to be recognised by such a great city and by the mayor, it's just really overwhelming.

"The people of Paris embraced us and our spirit and the fans from the Republic of Ireland as well.

"The city is coming out of some dark times and it was ready to see some smiling faces - we just happened to be those smiling faces."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Jim Spratt said Parisians had "embraced" Northern Ireland supporters and their spirit at Euro 2016

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