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Beaches, hospitals and on the Lech … Euro odyssey continues

 

In the wake of the Poznan disappointment we regrouped and drove north to Gmina Mielno for some beaches and a short break away from the Ireland Euro 2012 bandwagon.

Gmina Mielno is a small seaside resort west of Gdansk, which is sandwiched by the Baltic Sea and Lake Jamno and despite these geographical details it can only be described as the middle of nowhere.

Our camper vans joined some sedate septuagenarian German holidaymakers here. We intended on a quiet night but instead found the only bar in town open late, tastefully called the Harem Bar.

In addition to a dance floor the Harem bizarrely boasted air hockey tables blaring techno music and a ball pond in the back. When we awoke the next day it seems we had driven our fellow European holidaymakers away and our two vans were left in a shameful solitude.

From the Baltic backwater of Gmina Mielno we travelled along some dirt track roads to the tri-city area of Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia with our sat-nav seemingly determined to kill us all in a head-on collision with a rustic 1950s tractor.

Our accommodation was a campsite branded with a well-known Danish beer that charged an extortionate price despite its basic features and dubious sanitation. A sad aspect of major sporting events is where host cities decide to ramp up their prices to extort visitors, something I hope Londoners will steer clear of during the Olympics.

Our campsite was in fact a carpark fitted out with unsecure fencing, no showers and a token number of portaloos. You could say it was probably the worst campsite in the world and caused such discomfort among Irish fans that many of us have said we won’t be drinking this export beer again.

Match day in Gdansk was again a hugely atmospheric occasion with much banter between Irish and Spanish fans. Irish humour abounded aplenty, especially with the fantastical chant of “I know you won’t believe us, I know you won’t believe us … I know you won’t be-lieve us …. But we’re gonna top the group”.

Ireland and Spain have much in common these days with comparable unemployment rates, sharing a burst property bubble and can now even call each other bailout buddies. But economic similarities aside, in football terms the fixture was akin to a blind person partaking in the Pamplona bull run; an atrocity waiting to happen.

Several of us did not have match tickets and ended up paying top dollar for tickets off opportunistic touts. My ticket had me sat in the Spanish fans section who ecstatically watched the dismantling of our side.

After half-time I started to have stomach cramps and ended up spending most of the second half vomiting and, still clutching the toilet bowl, I listened to the Fields of Athenry boom around Gdansk’s PGE Arena during the final minutes of the match.

Things got progressively worse for me after the match and I ended up being put into an ambulance outside the stadium while my concerned yet rather amused friends waved me off.

Like the 4-0 defeat for the Republic it was an inglorious end to my night which concluded in hospital attached to a drip, which helped sort out some untimely food poisoning.

As numerous tabloids had remarked it really was “murder on the Gdansk floor”.

From the truly nauseating experience of Gdansk we moved on to the beautiful city of Toruń, situated between Gdansk and Poznan.

Among our travelling group of eight we have three single men who have been doing their best for international relations but like the Irish football team have largely been falling short so far.

One of our men has travelled all the way from his engineering job in a small mining settlement in north-west Australia to follow the Boys in Green. However, given the tens of thousands of male football fans descending on host Polish cities he has remarked that he is “more likely to find a woman in the mines than in Poznan”.

One Mayoman has however had some luck and has gone native with a local Poznan girl. So enamoured by our Mayoman, this Poznan lady even invited him to be her plus one for a wedding. Expect Ryanair to announce a new route between Knock and Poznan shortly.

Toruń proved to be the setting for some much-overdue Irish success with all three single men having some luck with the locals.

One of the Polish beers is called Lech and after a few of these a Cork man (“O’Leering”) in our group gets particularly lecherous.

Aside from the stunning beauty of Toruń’s old town which lies adjacent to the mighty river Vistula, some of the guys also stumbled upon a female beach volleyball competition in the main square. Sport truly was the winner after several sets were competitively played out in front of a particularly appreciative crowd.

A trip south to Poznan was made before the final Battle of the ‘PIGS’ when we take on the Azzurri in this Group of Debt today.

Many of the Irish team have said they owe their travelling fans a performance and I’m sure they will repay their loyal supporters.

Giovanni Trapattoni was born on St Patrick’s Day and as the popular chant goes “he used to be Italian but he’s Irish now”. Us supporters will be hoping for some luck of the Irish in Poznan.

Regardless, like the final moments of the match in Gdansk, we’ll continue on singing – even if we’re not winning.

 

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