Sunday 23 July 2017

Mahon fumes as Saints find a cold front in 'Borat' country

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

IT will be difficult for tonight's Europa League clash between St Patrick's Athletic and Shakhter Karagandy to match the drama of the Dubliners' trip to Kazakhstan.

Certainly, it has done little for diplomatic relations between the respective parties, with Saints boss Pete Mahon none too happy with his hosts after a lengthy 5,000km journey to the east of the former Soviet state.

After visa drama in London meant that a Saints official had to rush into the embassy to avoid the Dubliners missing one of their connecting flights, the League of Ireland side received no help from their opponents in securing transport for the two-and-a-half hour bus trip to Karagandy. The home team usually provides help with such logistics in European competitions.

"They have not been helpful at all in terms of organising the bus. We've had to source that ourselves," fumed Mahon.

"It will be interesting to see what goes on in the stadium from that point of view. There can be ducking and diving in these places. I just hope there is nothing nasty on the pitch. That would just leave a sour taste and bring an unnecessary edge to the second leg."

confusion

Still, at least the Saints made it there after events in London.

"We were supposed to collect the visas in the airport on arrival, but there was a lot of confusion," said Mahon.

"They were not there, so we had to send somebody into London itself and get them from the embassy. Luckily, we had time on our side, but it was still hassle we could have done without."

The Saints flew from London to the Kazakh city of Almaty before making their way on to their base in Astana, where they were advised to stay instead of Karagandy. But the 18-hour trek took its toll.

"We are all shattered to be honest," added Mahon. "The flight was through the night, but we just weren't tired enough to sleep."

Without enough time to train, the preparations in Kazakhstan have consisted of a walk and a stretch, although one plus is that the temperatures are nowhere near as warm as envisaged.

Astana is also removed from the unflattering picture of the country offered by the satirical character, 'Borat'. "It's a very modern city," said Mahon, "And we have a lovely hotel too. Years ago, going to places like this, you might wonder what you'd get, but so far this is excellent."

Nevertheless, the frenzied nature of the build-up has allowed little time to prepare for the stiff football task at hand. Hamstring doubts Paul Crowley and Brian Shortall weren't helped by the travelling conditions, either.

"I'll be honest," said Mahon, "If we can pull this one off, it will be a miracle."

Irish Independent

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