Northern Ireland

Irish flag 'Merkel thinks we're at work' visit Wee Oscar

It was the flag that showcased Irish wit and grabbed headlines across the world. 'Angela Merkel thinks we're at work.'

Posing for pictures in Dublin airport before heading off to the Euros the boys had no idea the media storm that was about to kick off.

Then take one little boy who was inspired to make his own Euro 2012 flag after seeing the lads and what do you get?

A social media phenomenon that went global.

When BBC NI News Online first published the picture on 8 June 2012 its popularity soared, it became the most read story globally for three days. The image also appeared on the front pages of a number of Irish newspapers, on US television and even the front page of German newspaper Bild.

The friends behind the flag Gerry Nolan, Richie Tuohy, Richie Leahy, Eoin Cantwell and Eoin O'Brien became instant stars and their flag was recognised the world over.

Richie Tuohy said: "We flew into Prague, we had only been in the air for a few hours and by the time we landed the thing had gone global.

Doing something good

"It's funny because we were just a few lads who got a flag made and went on the beer. We knew we wanted to make a flag and hoped our friends at home might be able to spot it during the games but we couldn't believe the popularity of the flag."

Image caption Oscar made his own flag in hospital "my ma thinks I'll be in bed early."

The flag was incredibly popular and was retweeted thousands of times. That is when Stephen Knox saw the flag.

Stephen was staying in hospital with his three year old son, Oscar, who was being treated for cancer.

Oscar Knox, from Mallusk in Co Antrim, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in November. It is a rare cancer which mainly affects children.

His parents set up the Twitter account so they could update friends and family on Oscar's condition each time he was in hospital.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that affects about 100 children each year in the UK. It develops from nerve cells called neuroblasts.

Oscar had been allowed to stay up late to watch the Ireland match with his daddy so they decided to make their own flag and send a picture to the boys.

His flag "my ma thinks I'll be in bed early" became another instant hit online.

The 'Merkel lads', as they have become known, were so touched by the picture they decided to auction their flag on RTÉ to raise money for the toddler.

"Before each game Oscar tweeted us a new picture. People kept offering us money when we were out there and decided it would be best to give the money to Oscar so we contacted his dad and said we would like to give them the flag", said Mr Tuohy.

"Stephen thought we should auction it and spilt the money between Oscar and The Children's Medical & Research Foundation which is the fundraising arm of Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin in Dublin and we agreed.

"We just wanted something positive to come out of all this."

The boys arrived back in Dublin on Wednesday evening and drove from the airport straight up to Mallusk to meet Oscar and see each others' flags as well play a bit of football.

Oscar was delighted with the meeting referring to the Limerick lads as "his new best friends."

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