Date:Monday October 9 2006
Roy Keane's appointment as Sunderland manager has resulted in an increase in tourism from Irish shores.
Since being announced as the new manager on Wearside in August, Keane has overseen an upturn in form for his new side that has seen three wins, one draw and only one loss recorded in his first five matches in charge.
This, along with his massive reputation in Ireland has resulted in a 10% increase in passenger numbers arriving in the north east from Ireland before Sunderland matchdays.
Carol Walsh, of Sunderland's tourist information centre, told BBC news that more Irish people, especially from Cork, were making the trip to the city since the Irish hero joined the club.
She said: 'There are a lot of people coming to the area mentioning his name - he is a real pull for the city.
'They are initially coming to see the football, but then are wanting to stay and wanting to know where to eat and where to visit to make a weekend of it.
'We have always had a good flow of Irish visitors, but we are noticeably welcoming more people from Cork who are saying they are over to see the football.
'Sunderland is a wonderful city and there is lots to do - we have a wonderful riverside, lots of pubs, clubs, restaurants and a great nightlife.'
With popular Irish figure Niall Quinn as chairman, as well as seven Irish board members and several Irish internationals such as David Connolly and Graham Kavanagh on the books, it is no surprise that Irish interest has increased.
Peter Sherrard, spokesman for Ryanair, confirmed that all these factors had played a part in attracting Irish interest, as is clear from their recent figures,
'On an annual basis we carry about 200,000 passengers between Dublin and Newcastle which is the main point of entrance for fans wanting to go to Sunderland.
'We have noticed a pick-up of 10% in passengers on Fridays and Saturdays which is an extra 600 on match days.'
And with the new 18-game part season tickets said to have sold well, the next home game could well see a further bumper crowd at the Stadium of Light.
It would seem that Irish eyes are smiling.
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