Football / World Cup USA '94: Engulfed in the jolly green tide: Rogan Taylor joins the Irish throng in New York for what was to be some party

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The Independent Online
THE PARTY started early. At 7am on the morning of the match, three young Irishmen staggered down Madison Avenue in search of the next bar. 'Are you watching, are you watching, are you watching, Jimmy Hill?'

By midday, central Manhattan had turned green. It was not the drink but the sight of thousands of Irish shirts and favours heading west to the Port Authority bus station, from where they were expressed along the New Jersey turnpike to the Giants Stadium. It was a cheap and painless process - American 'can do' in full bloom.

But where were the Italians? There were a few at the bus station, outnumbered a hundred to one. Perhaps they were travelling from depots nearer the Bronx, north of the island?

Outside the stadium, it was in the mid-nineties, with humidity at over 90 per cent producing what the local TV weatherman calls a feel-like temperature of 106. It has been like that in New York all week. Not so much the Big Apple as the baked apple.

The only relief near the stadium was a 'cool-zone'. It looked like an upside down bouncy castle, exuding bountiful jets of iced air on all who stood beneath it. Irish fans of both sexes were there shoulder to shoulder, slowly getting drenched from the condensation. 'It's like having a group shower', shouted one. 'It must be a sin then,' said another. But where were the Italians? Perhaps their entrances were over on the other side?

The 200-foot escalator transporting supporters to the upper tier of the Giants Stadium is impressive. As a way of reaching your seat in a football ground, it must have been a first for many, Evertonians excepted. In addition to the emerald green, the shirts of Leeds, Celtic, Bolton and Villa were prominent - all clubs with players in the Irish squad.

But on reaching the open air - and confronting the stunning view of a packed, steeply tiered bowl of a stadium - you did not even need a distant Irish ancestor to get an instant lump in the throat. Virtually the whole place was green. Even the neutrals were wearing the colour. But where were the Italian fans, who were said to have most of the tickets? If they did, they must have sold them to the Irish.

The Italian players hardly turned up, either. The Irish team brushed them aside. At the end of the match, some fans were in tears of joy. 'I can hardly believe this you know,' one muttered quietly to himself. 'Thank God.' Then, much louder: 'You never beat the Irish.'