Lonely Planet Writer

Bordeaux prepares for influx of Irish football fans travelling in customized buses

Irish football fans travelling to the Euro 2016 soccer tournament have found a novel way to bypass airlines and hotels – by taking their own double-decker buses.

Andy Bennett, Brian Cullen, Aidan McGuinness, Kevin Johnson and Eoin O'Donoghue with their customised double decker bus.
Andy Bennett, Brian Cullen, Aidan McGuinness, Kevin Johnson and Eoin O’Donoghue with their customised double decker bus. Image by: Press Assocation

Two groups of fans are currently on the road in France in specially converted and decorated old city buses. And they will be part of a huge “Green Army” of Republic of Ireland fans descending on Bordeaux for the game against Belgium on Saturday.

The inside of an old double-decker bus is kitted out with beds
The inside of an old double-decker bus is kitted out with beds. Image by: Press Assocation

Dubliner Kevin Johnson and eight friends took the ferry to France, ahead of Ireland’s opening game against Sweden, in their 30-year-old bus. It’s got two toilets and can sleep 12 and they have been on the road now for a week (some facilities are a little basic, their “shower” is an old garden hose). Kevin and his friends dedicated the bus to Irish soccer legend Paul McGrath. And when they tweeted the former Ireland and Manchester United great, inviting him to come and visit the bus, he replied with a promise to try and catch them in France.

“We didn’t even book campsites or anywhere to park up and we thought that might be a problem. But everywhere we’ve been, people are saying; “it’s fine, park wherever you like, guys, we love the bus!”. Kevin and his friends now plan to drive through Bordeaux city centre ahead of the game against Belgium, due to kick off at 2pm. “We’re hoping to do a big motorcade with the other buses and fans. We’re loving every minute of it. We were worried about the bus breaking down but it’s been a real star so far,” he says.

The 34-year-old salesman from Dublin plans to stay on until at least the end of the group stages. And should their team progress on to the knock-out stages, they will stay in France. “A few of the guys have to go home after the next game. But we’ve got spare beds and if any Irish fans are stuck for transport or a place to stay, they’re welcome to hop on board,” he says. Another group of Republic of Ireland fans from County Armagh are on the road in France with an old double-decker which took them two months to fit out. The ten friends pooled their cash to buy the bus and have spent three months fitting it out with bunk-beds, fridges, toilets and a barbecue.

The bus is decorated with pictures of the Irish coaches, Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, as well as a giant portrait of the popular Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell. And it has already been a big hit on social media.

Singer Daniel O’Donnell graces the back of the fan bus

Ireland’s travelling “Green Army” won the Best Fans award at Euro 2012. And the giant green double-decker buses are certain to feature in a lot of fan pics and selfies as the tournament continues.