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Love/Hate actor Peter Coonan in action at the Continental Tyres Fan Zone before the game

Love/Hate actor Peter Coonan in action at the Continental Tyres Fan Zone before the game

SPORTSFILE

Schade, Mariusz and Iga Krolik, Fermoy on their way to the Ireland v Poland match at the Aviva stadium in Dublin

Schade, Mariusz and Iga Krolik, Fermoy on their way to the Ireland v Poland match at the Aviva stadium in Dublin

Arthur Carron

An official removes a flare from the pitch

An official removes a flare from the pitch

SPORTSFILE

Cody Nolan (10) from Wexford, who suffers with cystic fibrosis, with his mother
Michelle, brother Kyle and sisters Victoria, who also has CF, and Kelsey at the Ireland v Poland match at the Aviva stadium in Dublin

Cody Nolan (10) from Wexford, who suffers with cystic fibrosis, with his mother Michelle, brother Kyle and sisters Victoria, who also has CF, and Kelsey at the Ireland v Poland match at the Aviva stadium in Dublin

Arthur Carron

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Love/Hate actor Peter Coonan in action at the Continental Tyres Fan Zone before the game

IT's a long and winding one - but we're on the road to the Euros. Just about.

Last night's euphoric match against Poland had fans on the edges of their seats in sheer panic after the Polish side scored in the first 20 minutes. But the boys in green staged a comeback when Shane Long bundled the ball over the line in the last five minutes, salvaging a draw for Martin O'Neill's men.

The atmosphere was electric as the green army leapt to their feet in sheer euphoria. It was all very different from the first half, when it was the Polish side who had the edge, with a confident Slawomir Peszko capitalising on a hesitant Irish defence to put the Poles one up.

Someone threw a flare on to the pitch, where it was promptly picked up by a suited official and carried off. The shouts of "Polska, Polska, Polska" were deafening and the first bit of Irish worry began to creep in.

The boys in green faced a real test and worked hard, going on the attack.

They managed to turn it around in the second half. But it was a tough one.

It had been almost 24 years since Ireland last met Poland in a competitive fixture. A lot has happened since then.

It must have been the only international match ever to be played out with two 'home' teams. The Green Army faced an uphill struggle to drown out the red and white at the Aviva stadium last night, amid an atmosphere that was more Poznan than Dublin.

From early morning, the troops began to assemble, kicking off with a Polish-Irish festival in the city centre.

Some 3,000 'away' tickets was supposed to be the allocation. Make that more like 30,000.

By the time the hordes began to arrive at the Aviva, it was clear that the Irish would have no home ground advantage here.

All the coaches in the traffic jam were carrying Polish fans and an advertisement for Polish beer played a very smart move by cheering "Come on Ireland" in English, but "Come on Poland" in Polish.

A huge sign draped over the side of the seats in the Aviva read in Polish: "We are playing at home."

Polish girls Gabriella Dabrawska and Kinga Gorska had travelled over from London for the match and were enjoying their first visit to Ireland - only to find themselves on oddly familiar ground. "We did not expect this at all," said a bewildered Gabriella.

"It's so much like home - we did not know there were so many Polish people here."

Katie Tomyslak and Lukas Chruszcz, who had both travelled over from Telford in the UK, said the same thing.

"But we also noticed that Irish people are nicer here than in England," said Lukas with a thoughtful look on his face, as though he was contemplating the possibility of moving over here to take advantage of this unexpected bonus.

Father and son Shane and Clayton (8) Peppard from Clondalkin made a valiant effort to stamp some green onto the crowd, painting their faces a lizard-like shade.

"It'll be a tough one," said Shane of the match. "But hopefully we will win by a goal or two. We need it."

Friends Paul Corcoran from Carrig-on-shannon, Co Leitrim and Ciaran Brady from Dublin were equally nervous before kickoff.

"I'd be happy with a draw to be honest," admitted Ciaran in what turned out to be a canny prediction.

Irish Independent