Eight-year-old Neil Gallagher from Ardfinnan counted himself as the luckiest boy in Ireland after being afforded the honour of accompanying the Republic of Ireland football team onto the Aviva Stadium pitch before their recent clash with Turkey – an experience which was given to him by Three, primary sponsor of the Irish football team.
Neil, who is in second class in Ardfinnan National School, was selected from hundreds of entries after entering a Three competition on Newstalk.
The prize was an opportunity to lead the team onto the pitch with captain for the day John O’Shea, as well as posing for official team photographs, and accompanying his parents to the Players’ Lounge after the final whistle.
ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF THE EXPERIENCE
Despite the scoreline on the night (Ireland lost 2-1), Neil enjoyed every minute of his evening in the limelight.
Mum Anne Marie accompanied Neil to Aviva Stadium with some of his family, and revealed he met one of his heroes along the way.
“Shane Long is from Tipperary, so once Neil told him that he was from Tipp as well, Shane spent ages chatting to him.
“He was really lovely.” said Anne Marie. “It was a great evening and Neil was so chuffed at meeting all the players in the tunnel before the game, and in the Players’ Lounge after the match had finished.
Long wasn’t the only big name to stop for a chat with Neil; a certain Roy Keane was also available for a few wise words, revealed Anne Marie.
“Neil met Roy before kick-off and Roy was really nice to him, an absolute gent.
“Needless to say it’s a story Neil’s classmates have heard a few times since. They wished him well before the match and weren’t too jealous despite all the autographs Neil came back with!”