Poland is where lady luck has placed us

SUPPORTING Ireland at Euro 2012 won’t be cheap, but it will be cheaper than a trip to Ukraine would have been.

Poland is where lady luck has placed us

Drawing Poland rather than Ukraine took €1,000 off the cost of our trip to Euro 2012, and will likely have the effect of doubling the number of fans willing to travel to about 7,000, with another 5,000 or so coming to support the team from Berlin and other diaspora locations.

Poland was where we wanted to be and Poland is where lady luck has placed us, starting in Poznan on June 10, sauntering 240km up the road to the lively port city of Gdansk four days later, and back to Poznan on June 18.

While both Gdansk and Poznan are Ryanair cities, the prices of direct flights there had already spiked in advance of the draw. Three other Ryanair cities, Szcezin, Bydgoszcz and Lodz are all within a few hours of Poznan, where our adventure will begin.

That choice is available for those who wish to go and scrap for tickets independently.

The first Euro 2012-specific packages could be on the market as early as Monday, from the FAI’s official partners Abbey Travel. Thomson Sport, a division of Falcon, will have access to tickets through their partnership with Uefa.

The other big soccer supporting tour operators, 747 Travel in Camden Street, Joe Walsh Tours, Limerick Travel and possibly Dawson Travel in Cork will also be putting together group packages.

There may be others in the coming weeks, as the tour operators join everyone in the sigh of relief that we are to be based in Poland and not in Ukraine.

These official packages can work out more expensive than doing it independently, but give the option of staying on should the team qualify for the knock-out stages.

The other good news is that our opposition, formidable as they look on the field, will ensure that tickets will be less of a problem than could otherwise have been the case.

One of the oddities of international soccer is that Italy and Spain are not as well supported as the other big countries and it is likely Croatia and Ireland will have more supporters in the two 44,000 capacity stadiums than their aristocratic opponents, who save their credit card to support their big clubs rather than the national team.

Beds will be at a premium, as is always the case when a big event comes to town, but both Poznan (with 20 decent hotels) and Gdansk (with around 80) are far better stocked than Lviv or Kharkiv would have been.

It is availability of hotel beds that will decide how much a fan will pay for his experience, not the distance from Dublin.

The reluctance of Italians and Spaniards to travel also means that waiting to book the hotel rooms might be worth a gamble.

Uefa has taken on a hopelessly optimistic allocation and, like South Africa 2010, the hotels might be handed back a lot of unsold rooms with five weeks to kick-off.

There are isolated reports of stocks of hotels being bought by middle men hoping to make a killing. These beds too might come back on the market The price of beer is astonishingly low, but that may spike in the second week of June despite the assurances of tourism officials that they will watch prices on the ground.

Finally, a message to Trap: DON’T WIN THE GROUP. If we finish top in the group we face a 1,784km trek to Donetsk — with five days to get there, a concern for Joxer’s progeny in their Hiace Vans.

When we arrive, there will only be two hotels and about 2,000 beds available from all forms of accommodation. Donetsk, a long dribble, of a city was the place we wanted to avoid.

If we are runners up in the group the trek is 1,071km to much more comfortable Kiev, where there are lots of hotel beds, better infrastructure and gallons of cheap celebratory Chernigivske beer to be drunk.

A strategic runners-up position would do the Green Army a favour, and would pay tribute to Greece and Denmark, themselves both underdog winners of the European Championship, from the runners-up position.

* Eoghan Corry is the editor of Travel Extra

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