MUNSTER'S red army is invading southwestern France as their rugby heroes attempt to conquer Europe and support back home on Leeside will be just as passionate.
Dozens of fans flew out of Cork Airport yesterday with more following today ahead of the kick-off tomorrow.
Munster face Racing 92 in the Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday at Bordeaux's 35,000 seater Stade Chaban-Delmas stadium. It is their 13th time reaching the semi-final of rugby's premier tournament, which they have won in 2006 and 2008.
There have been several near misses since the last final against Toulouse in 2008 and there is also the added incentive of a possible all-Ireland final with Leinster should they progress through their semi-final against Saracens.
The match, which kicks off at 4.15pm on Sunday, has generated huge interest and has seen Munster fans clamouring for places on package trips and others paying forking out as much as €850 to get to see the match in the flesh.
Cork-based Dawson Travel sold 189 overnight packages costing €499 in just an hour and a half after going on sale.
The company said it could have sold just as many day trips if it had been able to secure an additional chartered plane.
At home, the support will just as vocal as Munster aim for their first final since 2008.
Cork City Council will show its backing for the team by turning City Hall red for the match.
Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald said City Hall will show its colours as the local authority gets right behind the team ahead of the biggest club rugby clash in years.
Business owners and supporters are also getting behind the team by flying Munster flags and wearing red ahead of the Munster team’s departure for France from Shannon Airport this morning.
The Munster Rugby Supporters Club is urging everyone to get right behind the team by flying flags and wearing red and the hashtag #BordeauxBound is being used on Twitter.
Arrangements have been made for fans who have made the journey to France and the supporters club has chosen four venues as central gathering points and negotiated reduced rates for food and refreshments over the weekend period for all supporters wearing their Munster kit at each venue in Bordeaux.
These are the Connemara Bar at 18, Cours d’Albret; The Market Tavern at 15 Rue Rode; HMS Victory at 3 Place General Sarrail and The Houses of Parliament at 11 Rue du Parlement Ste Catherine.
Munster coach Johann van Graan said the team will need the Munster fans in the stadium to be the 16th man for the team and is urging them to be loud and proud on the day.
"I believe. This is a special club with special people. I can't stress enough the players and management really want to do it and I believe we can," he said.
Cork winger Simon Zebo is rumoured to be starting on the bench for the tie but former Presentation Brothers student and Cork Constitution man Peter O'Mahony will captain the team.