It can only be described as the calm before the storm here in Auckland, with hundreds of Irish rugby fans expected to descend on the city this evening, ahead of Ireland’s first test match against the New Zealand All Blacks tomorrow night.
Irish fans are set to arrive by plane, train and automobile from destinations across New Zealand and neighbouring Australia, in the hopes of cheering the boys in green to victory at Eden Park.
Walking through the heart of the CBD the unmistakable echo of Irish accents resounded, as the first wave of supporters began flocking to the bustling bars of Queen Street.
Given that the All Blacks have not been beaten at the stadium since 1994, the World champions will be tough opponents, but it doesn’t appear to have put a dampener on the spirits of their loyal Irish fans.
Despite the nippy winter weather a few hardy souls hit the town last night, with various renditions of Ireland’s Call and Amhrán na bhFiann to be heard filtering from local bars.
Publicans and authorities reported a relatively quiet night.
Nonetheless they are anticipating that their visiting guests will result in one of the busiest weekends the city has seen since last year’s Rugby World Cup.
In preparation, a large police presence was visible around the city last night.
Many more authorities will patrol the area around Eden Park from early tomorrow afternoon, in order to avoid any unruly behaviour in the lead up to the game.
Meanwhile popular Irish bars including Father Teds, The Muddy Irish and Malones are pulling out all the stops to show their support for captain Brian O’Driscoll and his team, with tricolour flags and green bunting adorning the venues.
Barry Ryan, an Irish accountant living locally here in Auckland, believes that the test games will help lift the spirits of those who feel that they’re missing out on the excitement of the Euro 2012.
“It’s a good way for myself and the other Irish people living and working here to go along to the match and get behind our home country,” he told the Irish Echo.
“We miss out on that side of things when they’re playing at home. We’re also missing out on the Euros. Lots of my friends are heading to Poland for it so in a way having this on our doorstep makes up for that a small bit.
“I was here last year for the [Rugby] World Cup, there was an amazing atmosphere,” he added.