Friday 23 August 2019

A close call with local police and relaxing with Love Island: Dundalk gear up for Qarabag test

30 July 2019; Seán Gannon of Dundalk poses for a portrait after the press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
30 July 2019; Seán Gannon of Dundalk poses for a portrait after the press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell in Baku

Dundalk players Sean Gannon and Jamie McGrath feared they were going to be taken to a police cell after an unexpected encounter with the law in Azerbaijan today.

Gannon and McGrath were doing photographs and interviews with travelling Irish media on the promenade across from the team hotel when they suddenly noticed a commotion.

The footballers were told that a permit was required to take snaps in that part of Baku, with the duo enduring a nervous wait while the matter was resolved.

"I nearly had to get bailed out," joked Gannon, after returning to the team hotel where the Irish champions are preparing for tomorrow's crunch European tie with local side Qarabag.

30 July 2019; Dundalk players, from left, Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly and Seán Gannon pose for a photograph after the press conference at the Old City in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
30 July 2019; Dundalk players, from left, Jamie McGrath, Daniel Kelly and Seán Gannon pose for a photograph after the press conference at the Old City in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

"We were on the promenade there and these guys came along...I was actually doing RTE at the time... I looked around and there was this little miniature police car flying down the promenade that went straight up to Jamie.

"Jamie is a quiet enough lad as it is but I don't think his Azerbaijani is any good. We were nearly getting put in a cell by the looks of it.

"They just said we had no permit and within five minutes there was literally eight or nine police around us."

The first local on the scene was in no mood to compromise, but the mood mellowed when he was joined by uniformed officers - although the language barrier was an obstacle.

"I didn't know what was going on," continued Gannon.

"They were just saying that you can't take photographs, we had to get a permit to take photographs or whatnot. They were all on the phone ringing people so we just tried to move away."

Members of the visiting party have taken the opportunity to go for a stroll around the capital of Azerbaijan although they have to be mindful of afternoon temperatures in excess of 30 degrees.

They flew to Baku on Monday via a refuelling stop in Romania with the cost of the charter flight coming in at around €150,000.

Gannon ensured that the group managed to keep in touch with events at home - by organising a connection so that interested squad members could watch the finale of reality show Love Island on a projector screen in their hotel.

"Dan Kelly is like the bookmaker over and he was giving odds on winners and everything," smiled Gannon. "Obviously we had a long travelling so it was just a case of people sitting around and watching TV and that's probably as important as preparing for the match beecause it's about recovering and getting your downtime and just switching off for a while.

"We got here last night late, but we will have to get out to get used to the humidity and the heat."

Gannon has managed to see a lot of the world through his exploits with Dundalk and is happy to tick a significant destination off the list.

"You end up visiting places that you probably would never think you’d end up in if it wasn’t for football. I think of Belarus, Iceland, Azerbaijan and these type of places. They’re not places that would probably jump off the map when you think of going on holidays.

"It’s no Love Island," he laughs, "But it’s great getting to see parts of the world that you usually wouldn’t end up in and obviously getting to play in different stadiums and in different climates is brilliant."

As he found out today, adopting to local customs is another part of the experience.

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