Ireland fans paint Chch green for test

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 13/06/2012
Northlands Lone Star
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

AVID: Irish fans at the Northlands Lone Star. From left are Rita Cahill, Mairead Sheridan, Kevin O'Riordan, Aoife Murphy, bar owner James Wall, Moira Codd and Niamh Grace.

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Christchurch's Irish bars are stocking up on Guinness, hiring extra security and painting the town green for this weekend's rugby test.

Thousands of fans are expected to pour into the city's bars for the All Blacks-Ireland game on Saturday night, and AMI Stadium in Addington will host about 21,000 supporters.

It will be the first international match Christchurch has hosted since the February 2011 earthquake.

The owner of The Craic in Riccarton Rd, Marty Fuller, said "the whole weekend is going to be huge".

"It's really exciting, not only because it's a big game but because there's a lot of Irish fans coming down," he said.

"There are a lot of Irish in Christchurch at the moment, and it's going to be a great weekend."

He said preparing for the event was like "gearing up for a bigger version of St Paddy's Day".

Extra supplies of Guinness and Kilkenny had been ordered, he said.

The Irishman bar co-owner Nik Dodge said staff "were going all-out on decorations".

"It's becoming a bit of a battle between All Blacks and Ireland, but it's all good fun and it's going to be a big weekend," he said.

Liam Heneghan, who hails from Cork, has been working in Christchurch as a structural engineer for about a year.

"This game ... just showcases how far the city has come," Heneghan said.

Rita Cahill, who is also a structural engineer, said she "can't wait for the game".

"We're going to have our jerseys on and flags and face paint.

"It's going to be unreal."

Laoise Condon, of the Christchurch Irish Society, said "pretty much all of the younger society members are going to the game".

"They all bought their tickets as soon as they were available, so it's going to be a great night," Condon said.

The head of the Christchurch police alcohol strategy and enforcement unit, Sergeant Al Lawn, said police were expecting a "bigger than normal" weekend.

"If people can behave themselves and not go absolutely crazy, then it will be a really good night."

Police usually saw an increase in violent incidents if the All Blacks lost a test, he said.

"We just want people to enjoy themselves – don't drink too much and, obviously, don't drive if they have been drinking," he said.

Senior Sergeant Scott Banfield said more than 21,000 people would fill AMI Stadium and police would have a "strong presence".

A traffic management plan was in place around the stadium and drink-driving teams would monitor people entering and leaving the stadium.

"It's going to be a great night and the only thing that will spoil it is if too many people get too intoxicated," he said.

A Canterbury Rugby Football Union spokeswoman said tickets were "100 per cent sold out".

The Irish team will arrive in Christchurch today and will tour the central-city red zone.

The players will meet Irish people living in Christchurch at their hotel tonight.

Vital info

Road closures for Saturday night's rugby test: Whiteleigh Ave closed from Troup Pl to Lincoln Rd. Show Pl and O'Shannessey Pl closed. Jack Hinton Dr closed from Whiteleigh Ave to Twigger St. The roads will be closed from 5.30pm to 10 pm. Free buses will run between 5pm and 11pm for test ticketholders to and from malls around the city. Visit metroinfo.co.nz for more information.

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Hundreds turn up to see All Blacks

A line wound its way around a Christchurch supermarket last night as excited fans waited their turn to meet an All Black.

Team media manager Joe Locke said hundreds had turned up to see Sonny Bill Williams, Tamati Ellison and Brodie Retallick at the Wainoni Rd Pak 'n Save.

The trio signed autographs and took photos with Christchurch fans of all ages.

Gwen, 81, who did not want her surname used, said she was lining up to "wish the boys luck" for the test against Ireland at AMI Stadium in Addington on Saturday night.

"I'm footy mad," she said. "I sit up all night watching their games ... all through the World Cup and last weekend too."

Chelsea Ball, 5, was eager to meet the players. "I love rugby, especially when they kick the ball," she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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