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FAI sets sights on Poland

AFTER the qualification comes the preparation.

A delegation of FAI officials will, as early as today, start heading east and begin making plans for the summer of 2012 with a reconnaissance mission to get an idea of what's ahead for Giovanni Trapattoni's team in Poland/Ukraine.

The hope for all concerned - FAI and fans - is that the draw for the groups at the finals, a draw which takes place in the Ukrainian capital on December 2, will be kind to the Irish and place the Republic in one of the two 'clusters' within Poland itself.

Poland and its four host cities - the capital Warsaw, Gdansk in the north on the Baltic coast, Poznan and Wroclaw in the west, is the dream draw for the Republic.

The FAI have already been contacted by cities and clubs in Poland who would like to host the Irish team and fans, and it's thought an advance FAI logistics team are heading to Poland today on a scouting mission.

So we'd all better start brushing up on the language and geography, first lesson being that Wroclaw is not pronounced Rock-law but Vrots-wav.

The four Polish host cities are all easily reachable from here, with direct and scheduled flights from Dublin. Those keen to save money and avoid the inevitable price-hikes on flights will look around for other options, with possibilities including a flight to Berlin and then a bus or car journey (three hours) from the German capital to Poznan.

Things get sticky if next month's draw places the Irish team in two of the four Ukrainian host cities (Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and Donetsk). As St Patrick's Athletic fans discovered when trying to find a cheap way to Lviv, for the Saints' Europa League tie with Karpaty there in July, there isn't one, with currently no scheduled direct flights from Ireland.

Ukraine also throws up problems in terms of accommodation. Places like Warsaw (as befits a busy European capital) or Poznan (a popular city for trade fairs) are well-equipped with hotels, but rooms in Ukraine will be hard to find and expensive.

Use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Ukraine would make driving a testing experience, and any budding Joxers keen to repeat the exploits from Euro 88 should be warned - the drive from Dublin to Donetsk is around 4,000km.