Northern Ireland intends to put Welsh dragon to the sword

Defeat to mean mass exit by fans from Euro 2016 – a benign version of the fall of Saigon

Northern Ireland fans: Green and white Army ready to cheer on the side against Wales. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Northern Ireland fans: Green and white Army ready to cheer on the side against Wales. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Northern Ireland supporters are unable to stop singing their song, “Will Grigg’s on fire, your defence is terrified” and they will be singing it with gusto again this Saturday evening in the Parc de Princes in Paris when they face Wales.

It’s a huge moment for the Northern Ireland team and their fans. A win against the might of Gareth Bale and his Welsh colleagues and Northern Ireland will proceed to the quarter finals of the Euros.

Defeat and it will be like a benign version of the Fall of Saigon as thousands of supporters compete to get a plane out of Paris or other cities around Europe to take them home to Northern Ireland.

But while the fans have been deafening the natives of Nice, Lyon and Paris with their Will Grigg song, which is based on the Gala hit Freed from Desire, somehow the Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill hasn’t heard them. He has yet to pick Grigg who scored 28 goals for his club Wigan and one goal for Northern Ireland.

Now a Dutch game developer called Poki has developed a game to try to get O’Neill to listen.”In the game football fans from all around Europe are offered the opportunity to play Will Grigg against Wales superstar Gareth Bale,” explained Agness Walewinder of Poki.

“The goal of our petition is to score 100,000 virtual ‘Grigg Goals’ in an attempt to catch Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill’s attention. Together with millions of football fans singing his name during Euro 2016, we hope this convinces O’Neill to finally let Will Grigg play and set the hearts of all fans on fire,” she said.

Certainly Northern Ireland will need all the firepower they can muster against the Real Madrid star, at €100 million reckoned to be the world’s most expensive soccer signing. But equally, apart from Bale, they will know the Welsh players from the English leagues and, according to the Northern fans, won’t be one bit afraid of them.

Money raised from the Will Grigg song goes to Joseph’s Goal, the charity formed to help six-year-old Joseph Kendricks from Wigan who has NKH (Non-Ketotic Hyperglycinemia), a very rare life-limiting genetic disorder that severely affects his development, and to raise awareness about the illness. Money raised from this game also will go to Joseph’s Goal. So far the charity has raised more than £250,000 for research into the disorder.

Meanwhile, ahead of the game the Northern Ireland players will be conscious that the funeral is taking place at noon on Saturday at St Patrick’s Presbyterian parish church, Ballymena, of local man Darren Rodgers (24) who died in a fall from a Nice promenade after the first game against Poland.

His father Paul issued a statement on behalf of the Rodgers family thanking “every single person who has sent us cards, called with us, and supported ourselves and Darren all over Ireland, Europe and also internationally”.

“The sheer amount of love, goodwill and outpouring of grief has left us with memories that will live with us the rest of our lives. To all the supporters from every country who have left mementos, shirts, scarves, flags and messages of love and support at the site of Darren’s accident, we can never express how much all of this means to us,” said Mr Rodgers.