Scarva man one of the first in France and hoping it won't be an early exit

As the exodus from Northern Ireland began last week, Banbridge based fans piled across to France.

Tuesday, 14th June 2016, 10:04 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:23 pm
Adam Topping took no chances, heading off to France on his own five days early.

One of the first of the Northern Irish troops to touch down on the continent was Scarva man Adam Topping.

He was never going to miss the chance to see his team playing in their first finals since 1986.

He even went over five days before NI’s opening match - just to make sure he was there on time.

Adam, 33, is a self emloyed website designer at Kuba Creative and he’s also a coach at the Glenavon FC Academy.

And just for the Leader, he’s penned a diary of his trip so far, beginning with the quest to get himself to Euro 2016:

“Having been to 2006 World Cup in Germany for a week, the plan was to tour France this summer and get in lots of games at the Euros - and that was even before NI had even qualified. As time went on, the prospect of NI qualifying got more and more real and excitement continued to build.

“I checked in with friends multiple times from the start of last year about going over, having experienced the excitement of the World Cup 10 years ago. All of them are at the age now where they either have young families and couldn’t commit to what has turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.

“I applied for tickets in the first ballot last July. Five games in five locations over two weeks all around France. Low and behold, demand was great and I only got success with a group game on 22nd June in Lyon, which turned out to be Portugal v Hungary.

“Well it was a starting point at least. I booked flights for Lyon from Dublin going out 7th June returning 23rd June, giving me a central starting place.

“A few months later and it was getting even more real. The euphoria of NI qualifying and suddenly every second person I spoke to had booked something to go to France and follow our wee team. They had all made their individual plans.

“There were still no takers amongst my friends but I joined a group of Glenavon fans. I managed to get tickets for all of the Northern Ireland games through the ‘follow my team’ and I was all set for the off.

“So I flew into Lyon and got the train to St Raphael, where I spent three nights before joining up with the rest of the group in La Baume campsite.

“I had been hoping to get up to Cannes but the trains were intermittent with the strikes so I didn’t manage to do that.

“When I arrived at the campsite, the place was bouncing with Northern Ireland fans. It was crazy.

“Then on Sunday, the atmosphere was absolutely electric. All around the ground and in Nice, fans were all embracing one another. The relationship between the Polish fans and Northern Ireland fans was brilliant. Even after the game, the Poles didn’t rub in the result at all.”

Adam will now be off to the other two group games, meeting with his family for the Germany game in Paris as a 65th birthday present for his dad.

He’s hoping though that won’t be the end of his trip and he’ll have to figure out a way home much later in the tournament.