Former Ports player in hotel two blocks from terror attacks

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Alan Cawley - a former Portadown Football Club player who spent last weekend in Paris - has expressed his reservations at returning to France for next summer’s European Championships.

The former Republic of Ireland youth international arrived in the French capital on Friday afternoon and stayed with his wife at a city hotel just two blocks away from some of the terrorist attacks.

Alan’s taxi back to the airport on Sunday was driven by the father of a survivor.

Time spent in the city after the co-ordinated attack, which resulted in 129 deaths, has left Cawley cautious about the EURO 2016 football tournament.

“I have to say I could understand how everything last weekend would put people off visiting the European Championships,” said Alan, who now works in the media. “Normally, I would have been watching coverage on my television from back home but it was a different experience from inside the city.

“I headed over for a short trip with my wife, Cathy.

“Everyone seemed in good spirits during Friday afternoon and we spent time at quite a few tourist spots then just walking around the city.

“We went out to an Irish bar to watch the Republic of Ireland football match on television but then left early because fog at the ground made it difficult to follow the broadcast. Back at the hotel I was checking Twitter on my phone for match updates and then the coverage of the attacks started to appear.

“We turned on the TV to watch the news and then our phones started going nuts with calls from back home with people checking in.

“We were about 10 minutes away from some of the shootings.”

Many tourists opted to leave France the following day but the Cawleys decided to spend the remainder of the planned trip in Paris.

“We stayed local to the hotel but there was certainly an eerie atmosphere the next day, with security searching people coming in and out of the shops,” said Alan. “I felt uncomfortable.

“Then heading back to the airport the taxi driver told us how his son had survived one of the attacks.

“We arrived back home on Sunday and our thoughts remain with everyone in France.”

Alan is hoping to visit Portadown before the end of the season.

“Now our domestic season has finished I would love to get back up to Portadown for a game with my son,” said Alan. “Although I was only at Portadown for six months or so, I loved it at the club.

“To be honest, I was treated better by everyone at Portadown than most of the other clubs in my career.

“We had a brilliant group of lads and I am looking forward to getting back up to the club.”