Paris: The British referendum on whether they stay in or leave the European Union takes place this Thursday, June 23, long after this column is put to bed. If the leave side wins - and right now the polls are saying that's a real possibility - the consequences for Ireland will be extremely serious.

Rather than tempting fate by discussing them now, we will park the matter until next week when the result will be known. In the meantime, we turn our attention to something even more important: football, or soccer, as they call the beautiful game in America.

Attentive readers will have noticed that your humble correspondent was absent from this space last week. That was not because the week before I had written a column which attempted to give The Donald a fair shake and caused a tsunami of outraged comments on IrishCentral as a result.

No, I had not been fired. I was missing because I had taken a week off to be with my two adult sons in Paris for the Ireland-Sweden game.

Since then, we have had the Belgian debacle and by the time you read this we may even have had an Italian job done on us. We could not go to either of these matches, but being at the game against Sweden in Paris was an experience that will live in the memory forever. We should have won, of course, but the draw only marginally clouded a glorious day.

We were staying in the Opera District, one of the classier parts of Paris. Even there, the Boys in Green, the traveling army of Irish supporters, had taken over.

Every bar and brasserie had masses of green topped fans, many with leprechaun hats and false red beards, knocking back the beers, singing, dancing and generally being as silly as possible. The streets were full of marauding groups of them trying to involve the reserved Parisians in the craziness of "the craic."

This extended to impromptu five a sides and Riverdance exhibitions which occasionally stopped the traffic. It even involved Green Army fans throwing their arms around the real French Army, the heavily armed soldiers who were everywhere because of the heightened security.

We were there early for a long weekend - you will remember the match was on the Monday - and after a long night of sing songs and merriment it can get a bit wearying. You can only sing “Stand Up for the Boys in Green” so often. So the next day we escaped down to the fan zone in front of the Eiffel Tower where supporters from all the countries involved were congregating.

When we got out of the taxi there we were faced with the sight of half a dozen Boys in Green dropping their pants to their ankles for a group selfie in front of the Tower. Most of them looked old enough and sensible enough to know better. They were probably accountants, but these days being part of the Green Army is all about posting the maddest picture on social media.

It was even more intense in other parts of the city that night, especially in the budget areas where accommodation was cheaper. We passed through Montmartre, and we could have been in Mullingar on St. Patrick's Day.

Irish and Swedish fans are having the mother of all parties in Paris

— Irish Sun (@IrishSunOnline) June 13, 2016
The Boys in Green, many of them the worse for wear, were spilling out of the bars and spilling their beers as they consulted the maps on their phones and argued about the right way back to where they were supposed to be staying. Doorways in side streets became pissoirs. Paris never smelled more Parisian.

All of this mayhem was, of course, very good natured. That's what makes the Irish "the best fans in the world," as we repeatedly tell ourselves.

Read more: The lads of summer - Irish soccer fans are the class act of Europe

Passing groups of Swedish fans, in their yellow tops, were confronted and then hugged, with beer spilled down their backs.

Getting to the match on Monday afternoon was something else. Two taxis we hailed refused to take us to the Stade de France, the 90,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of Paris. “Traffique,” the drivers said, shaking their heads.

The second guy took us to the station, the Gare du Nord, where local trains leave for the stadium. Most of the 90,000 fans heading to the sold out match seemed to be there before us.

The lines in front of the ticket machines were six fans wide and hundreds long. It was chaos, with the French staff hiding behind barriers instead of helping.

When we eventually got on the platform, the electronic display said the train was delayed by 15 minutes. By the time it arrived the platform was a heaving sea of green and yellow (the Swedes).

To pass the time the Irish fans serenaded the Swedes with a chorus to the tune of “Stand Up for the Boys in Green.” Except the words were changed to “You're s***, but your birds are fit, you're shit, but your birds are fit,” an insult to the Swedish team but a sort of backhanded compliment to the blonde Swedish girls in the crowd.

After a few minutes the Swedes responded with the same tune, but their own words: “Go home, to your ugly wives, go home, to your ugly wives.”

As the train trundled the mile or two out to the stadium, the competitive singing got ever more insulting but it was all taken in good humor, and there was lots of hugging and high-fiving between Green and Yellow as we lined up for the two body searches on the way into the game.

As you will know if you were watching on TV it was a spectacular occasion, but nothing beats being there. Hearing “The Fields of Athenry” echoing around the Stade de France, so loud that the stands were shaking, brings a lump to the throat.

We could have been two or even three up at half time and, as we said above, we deserved to win. But football can be cruel at times and our own goal near the end was a tragedy for us.

In truth we were hanging on by then, exhausted after putting so much into the first half and desperately trying to defend our slender one-nil lead against Ibrahimovic. The fact is we don't have players of that caliber in the Irish squad, something that became even more obvious a few days later when we played Belgium.

What we lack in talent, however, we make up for in heart -- and in the atmosphere generated by the traveling fans, the so-called Green Army who are determined to support the team and party before and after games no matter the results.

However, the truth is, as we said above, the relentless, mindless "craic" can get a bit tiring at times.

Okay, so we don't throw smoking flares or firecrackers on the pitch like the Croatians and we don't have vicious fights like the Russians or some of the English.

But a growing number of the Green Army, especially the younger recruits, insist on "having the craic" in a way that can be irritating and offensive, and they think it's hilarious pushing it down the necks of everyone around them. If you're a tired Parisian on the way home from work in the evening you don't necessarily want to be forced into doing Irish dancing in the street or have a leprechaun hat jammed on your head.

And then there's the amount of drink consumed. The perception that all the Irish fans are simply merry after a few beers was certainly not true in Paris.

Down around Pigalle on the night of the game against Sweden, we saw far too many young fans in green tops who were staggering around out of their heads with their Tricolors wrapped around them, or even comatose on the pavement. Many of them seemed to be lost and too drunk to either find out where they were supposed to be staying or actually get there.

Clueless and not knowing what to do, they were trying to keep their spirits up with fitful choruses of “The Boys in Green,” grabbing passers-by to join in the singing and dancing whether they wanted to or not. We didn't see any fights but some of these fans were far too aggressive.

Not very charmingly Irish either was the debris they were creating on the streets, the cans and bottles and other rubbish and the occasional pool of vomit. And up side streets there were all the Irish fans urinating in public against windows and doorways, still singing as they did so.

You don't have to be a fastidious Frenchman to find this sort of behavior objectionable. Maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff. But I'm way past finding any of it amusing. And then we complain about stereotyping if anyone says anything about the drunken Irish!

One other thing. There may have been tens of thousands of Irish in Paris for the match, but how many of these Green Army fans ever go to a League of Ireland match at home, where most Irish players begin their careers and where matches are usually played before a "crowd" of a few hundred, or even just a few dozen, supporters.

Ole, Ole, Ole, indeed.