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Thursday 30 March 2017

What Trap's Green Army can expect

Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Wroclaw, Poznan, Lviv, Kharkiv and Donetsk don't exactly trip of the tongue, but by next summer Irish soccer fans will have an intimate knowledge of Poland and Ukraine.

And while there's 90 minutes to go against Estonia on Tuesday, Irish fans can start dreaming of a mid-summer campaign that will test their stamina, as well as their wallets.

It's a whopping 1,810km from the Polish Euro 2012 venue of Gdansk, most vividly remembered these days for the emergence of the Solidarity movement in the shipyards, to the Ukrainian coal mining city of Donetsk, which will also play host to the championships.

And ticket prices will range from €250 for the best seats in the opening phase down to a reasonable €45 after UEFA decided to take account of local purchasing power. Tickets will actually be 50 per cent cheaper than in the last Euro finals in Austria and Switzerland in 2008.

Category 3 tickets for the final will cost only €50 each, though it may be a stretch for even the most diehard Irish fans that we will reach that stage of the competition.

But Irish fans may be tested by travel chaos unless the Polish and Ukrainian authorities move to complete infrastructural projects that are months behind schedule.

Major roadworks, improvements to train links and airport terminals are progressing slowly and it will test both countries to have things in order before the first match in Warsaw on June 8

Martin Kallen, the Uefa operations director for Euro 2012, admitted last week: "There is still major work to be done in the next four months, especially in transport, from the airports to the stadiums and to the city centres. It will be a different Euros. On the football side, we want it to be on the same level or a little better than Austria-Switzerland in 2008. But it will never be on the same level in terms of transport."

The Uefa official listed a number of air and ground transport projects which will not be finished until April, saying he has had "sleepless nights" about the delayed new air terminal in Gdansk.

While Irish fans travelling abroad have never been less than resourceful, the finals could test their mettle.

In Ukraine, which is Europe's second biggest country after Russia, work is still under way at the airports of all four host cities, Donetsk, Kiev, Lviv and Kharkiv, where a new terminal is scheduled for completion in March. Road and rail transport links are also still under construction.

Tickets go on sale to competing nations after the draw in December 2. The competing nations will receive 448,000 tickets; the remaining 322,000 will be distributed to sponsors and corporate hospitality guests.

Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Krakow and Warsaw, while Ryanair flies from Dublin to nine different Polish airports, including three out of the four host cities, Gdansk, Krakow and Wroclaw.

A return flight from Dublin to Warsaw with Aer Lingus for the opening weekend, including taxes and charges, currently stands at €246. Ryanair doesn't fly to Warsaw but flights to Krakow on the same weekend are €239.20, including taxes and charges.

In Poland, hotels range from €35 for budget to €105 for a double room and a bit of luxury. A caravan pitch costs €12 per person and camping is available from around €6.

Mr Kallen said the 400,000 football fans who will travel will be pleasantly surprised.

Fans will be offered accommodation in university lodgings, bed and breakfast rooms and camping sites where there are too few hotels.

"It's okay, it's clean, it's safe. It's not so different to the last Euros," he said.

Sunday Independent

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