Tuesday 21 November 2017

Poznan swamped as Irish fans arrive in their droves

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: PA
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: PA
John O'Shea, Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle and Stephen Ward during a training session at Municipal Stadium, Gdynia, Poland. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle, right, and Shay Given
(from left) Garry Doyle, Mark Fetherston, David Coyle and Tim Kielty from Allenwood Co Kildare who are were the 1st Irish camper van to arrive in Poznan yesterday ahead of the Euro 2012. Photo: Mark Condren

Fiach Kelly and Ed Carty

IRISH fans have begun arriving en masse in Poznan this morning.

Green is ubiquitous, and the airport is humming with Irish accents as three Ryanair flights and others from various locations bring the fans in.

Gardai had a visible presence at the airport this morning, with four Irish officers at the arrivals terminal, making themselves known.

The campervans had already started flooding in last night, but a group of friends from Cork had nowhere to park theirs up, since their campsite doesn't open until today.

So Gary Lavelle, Cathal O'Regan and Cian Blake - all 26 - ditched the rented camper they picked up in Berlin at the side of the road overnight. Not that they were paying to much attention to parking meters or clampers.

"Typical Irish," said Gary this morning as he munched a fry in the Dubliner pub.

"We said we go for some grub first and then move it. Sure it's probably clamped up there. I'd say we'll be grand. We'll move it to the Lake Malta place later on."

The Fanzone in the city centre opens later today in time for the opening match of the tournament, with Poland playing Greece in Warsaw. The match will be beamed onto big screens in Poznan's Fanzone.

It also has various fans' embassies, where supporters can go for information, with the Irish one led by Garrett Mullan, a volunteer who has flown over from Dublin.



Meanwhile, the Irish team have been told that the doors of the small Star of the Sea church facing the Ireland team hotel are always open to thme.

In broken English, near perfect Italian and then a smattering of French, Father John Jasiewicz gestures at two undersized tricolours hoisted at the entrance and says he wants to welcome the squad, offering prayers and a mass.

"The priests are open to it, if Giovanni or anyone would like to come that's no problem," he said.

"Of course, we'll say a prayer for Ireland. And our doors are always open to them."

That might just be going one better than the Poznan fans' mass on Sunday but Trapattoni has already shown faith as his sister Maria, a nun, has sent him Holy Water for the competition.

No rose petals for the team to walk on but it being the feast of Corpus Christi and a public holiday in Poland there was the traditional religious procession for fans to walk into.

Derek Breheny and Joe Vaughan, from Ballinasloe, Co Galway, did just that.

"Anything that'll help, and we'd be in it ourselves if we thought it'd do good," Mr Vaughan said.

The middle-aged pair should have been camping in Gdansk but the site has not been completed in time and they've found themselves with a sleepless night of a different kind looking for accommodation in Sopot.

Ready to make a beeline to the team's Sheraton Hotel, Mr Breheny - a regular visitor to these parts thanks to a romance with his 32-year-old Polish girlfriend Deotya Talaga - sipped his pint of pilsner and took it all in.

"Sure the bed in the hostel here will be softer than the ground over there," he said.

Down the street, Mr Vaughan, an unemployed former factory worker, and his blocklayer friend spotted the local cartoonist's latest drawing - Trapattoni with a pitch perfect take on Barack Obama's "Is Feidir Linn".

Goalkeeper Shay Given apparently did a double-take as he hurriedly walked by.

Elsewhere, overlooking the wooden pier in Sopot a quartet of tenors belted out open air opera - not the classics of choice for most fans and certainly not when it is a foreboding rendition of Andrea Bocelli's Time to Say Goodbye.

The influx to Sopot is expected, hangovers in tow, on Monday despite unseasonal weather by the Baltic.

Back at the doors of Najswietszej Marii Panny Gwiazdy Morza, that is the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary Star of the Sea to the uninitiated, Pastor John clapped his hands at the sight of the feast day's floral displays.

He said they were only put up to brighten the place - you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise with thick green foliage mixed with white roses and orange peonies.

"We would like the team to pray here, if they would like to," Fr John said of the Irish squad.

"And if they have their own priest it is no problem for them to have a Mass in English."

The two local priests speak only Polish, a little French, or Italian from their Vatican days - that will suit Il Trap, a devout Catholic who caused a stir as boss of the Azurri in World Cup 2002 when he sprinkled Holy Water on the pitch before Italy played.

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