Topsy Ojo admits he is already counting down the days until London Irish's annual St Patrick's Party fixture when they will take on Newcastle Falcons at the Madejski Stadium.
The Exiles have celebrated St Patrick's Day at the Aviva Premiership Rugby home game closest to March 17 since 2001, when 12,500 fans saw them prevail 13-10 over Northampton Saints. The tradition has since gone on to establish itself as a standalone fixture in the rugby diary and is attended by supporters from all over Britain and Ireland. The 2015 Party will take place against the Falcons on Saturday March 28 with entertainment, live music and competitions in the Village from 11am.
Having his made his Irish debut in 2005, Ojo is a veteran of the St Patrick's Party and the winger is adamant that not only is it a great day out for fans but the highly-charged atmosphere helps the players on the pitch as well.
"The atmosphere is always amazing at the St Patrick's Day games – when you get such big crowds coming through the gates, it just sets everything up for a brilliant day of rugby,” Ojo explained.
"The club do really well making sure all the fans are accommodated – we get an influx of extra fans with it being around St Patrick's Day and it really gees the team up as well.
"We always put on a big performance for Paddy's Day and this year is going to be no different. It's a special occasion and especially for me on the wing because I'm that little bit closer to the crowd.
"It has a massive impact on the guys – it does inspire you and those are the sorts of occasions you want to be a part of.”
Ojo has good memories of the St Patrick's Party fixtures and singles out a 16-13 triumph over Wasps in 2007 – where he scored the hosts' only try – as a particular highlight. Riki Flutey's late penalty sealed the win despite Exiles flanker Juan Leguizamon earlier dropping the ball over the try-line when attempting an extravagant celebratory dive.
Irish currently lie tenth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, just one place ahead of the Falcons, and with a European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh at the start of April, Ojo is keen to start building momentum.
"We want to finish the season strongly and see how far up the table we can push,” added the 29-year-old. "And we've got a massive quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup so it's an important part of the season for us.
"We want to start well, start with a bang and that's Newcastle at the St Patrick's Party – it's important to get the win but looking forwards it's also important to have that momentum.
"It's one of the fixtures you target in the calendar, see who you've got and then think I'm definitely looking forward to that one.”
The London Irish St Patrick's Party takes place on Saturday 28 March at Madejski Stadium. The day starts at 11am with fun for all the family, followed by London Irish v Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership. For tickets call 0118 968 1016 or visit www.London-irish.com