Three young Northern Ireland football fans returned home from France with some special luggage to go along with a host of EURO 2016 memories.
Jack McIvor and the Stewart brothers, Nathan and Luke, spent three weeks as part of the Green And White Army at the nation’s inaugural European Championships.
The support provided by the Northern Ireland fans attracted international acclaim and was highlighted within the squad camp as a key reason for the team’s progress out of the group stages.
The three boys certainly enjoyed the benefits of that bond between team and supporters when players decided to reward fans for such loyal backing by giving away boots and shirts following the exit to Wales.
McIvor was handed Jonny Evans’ boots and the Stewart brothers managed to collect items from Paddy McNair and Craig Cathcart.
After time spent in Nice, Paris and Lyon cheering on a Northern Ireland squad that also included Portadown-born Luke McCullough, the final fixture provided the highlight of the trip.
“The players came out at the end of the game and went over to the fans,” said Olivia Stewart, the brothers’ mother. “They gave their shirts and boots away which was a fantastic gesture.
“Nathan got the boot off Craig Cathcart first, then Luke got Paddy NcNair’s shirt and was in tears of joy after getting it.
“Some of the players were throwing their stuff into the fans but Jonny Evans came over and reached his boots to Jack.
“It’s ironic because Jack is also a centre-half just like Jonny.
“He was hoping they would fit but they are too big as they are a size 12.
“They will be great keepsakes and the icing on the cake of what was a wonderful occasion.”
McIvor’s father, Gary, was in France for the group test against Germany.
“Jack had a fantastic time and he would text me ‘today was the best day’ then the next day he would send the same again,” he said. “It was a buzz the whole time.
“Jack still has his match ticket so I plan to put it and the boots into a glass cube.
“Hopefully at some point in the future we can get Jonny to sign them.”
The Stewart brothers live in Laurelvale and play football for Lurgan Town. Portadown-born McIvor is on the books at Glenavon but his summer football adventure will continue with selection for County Armagh during the forthcoming SuperCupNI.