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Ireland's "perfect" Euro 2012 facilities

Updated: Friday, 27 Apr 2012 18:34 | Comments

RTÉ's Glenn Mason visited the municipal stadium in Gdynia to get a taste of what Ireland can expect this summer
RTÉ's Glenn Mason visited the municipal stadium in Gdynia to get a taste of what Ireland can expect this summer

by Glenn Mason

The build-up to the Republic of Ireland's last appearance at a major tournament in 2002 was overshadowed by the controversy over the training facilities in Saipan. It is unlikely to be the case this time around.

Described as "perfect for us" by an FAI spokesman, the municipal stadium in Gdynia in northern Poland will play host to most of the Republic of Ireland's training sessions during Euro 2012.

The stadium, which is the home of Polish second division side Arka Gdynia, was rebuilt at a cost of just €21m and hosted its first match in February 2011.

The compact and colourful 15,139-seater arena boasts top class facilities for players, fans and the media.

On first inspection, the playing surface appeared to be of a similar high standard and work is being carried to make sure it is ideal for the Irish squad.

Arka will play another four games at the venue but the stadium manager confirmed to Irish reporters that work on "regenerating" the pitch would begin on 1 May and would be completed before Ireland's arrival in early June.

Described as having one of the best atmospheres in Poland, it seems a shame that such an excellent venue should only be used for training sessions.

There will be no training games for the squad while in Poland, with only a friendly against a Serie C side planned during the training camp in Montecatini in Italy.

That game, which is due to be finalised next week, comes between the warm-up matches against Bosnia and Hungary.

As a means of getting the citizens of Gdansk, Spot and Gdynia on side, Giovanni Trapattoni's side will stage an open training session at the venue on 5 June.

It is expected that around 10,000 local children and football fans will turn up for the event, with many Irish fans opting to stay in and around Poznan, where the team will play Croatia and Italy.

Once those formalities are over and done with, the municipal stadium would appear to be an ideal place to prepare for the tough games against Italy and Croatia and the Gdansk encounter against World and European champions Spain.

Players to stay in the lap of luxury

Away from the training ground, the players will primarily be based in the fabulous five-star Sheraton Hotel in nearby Sopot.

The picturesque and affluent area is the most popular seaside holiday destinations in Poland and combines a vibrant nightlife with an old-world charm.

The Sheraton offers panoramic views of the Baltic Sea and the famous Sopot pier, which will be free for the players during their stay.

The players will have the third floor of the hotel to themselves with security ensuring there are no gatecrashers to disturb match preparations.

It has been left up to the players themselves to choose if they want to room alone or together. Either way they are assured of luxury.

The FAI is working on installing a games room including a golf simulator, pool tables and game consoles in the hotel to keep boredom at bay for the players, .

One of the hotel's many conferences suites will be set aside for the team, where they can eat, relax, watch movies and have team meetings.

While much of the players' strength and conditioning work will be done in the pre-tournament training camp in Italy, the Sheraton has a fully equipped gym for the players to use, as well as rooms for classes such as yoga and Pilates.

As with every other top class hotel, the Sheraton has an array of restaurants and bars, but how much of those the players get to enjoy will be at the discretion of Trapattoni.

It is expected that the manager will allow the players some downtime during their stay, giving them the chance to walk among the tourists on the beach and shop around town.

Nothing will be left to chance with the food the players eat and chef David Steele, who regularly travels to away games, will be with the squad to set the menu and prepare meals.

If they want to treat their taste buds further, the Inazia restaurant serves Japanese and Chinese food, while the hotel also has a special licence to allow smoking indoors.

Warning about public drinking

However, there was a note of caution for any fans travelling to the town and planning to drink outside.

Sopot mayor Bartosz Piotrusiewicz warned that fans will not be allowed to drink in public and face a fine if caught doing so. This law also applies to the town's beaches.

Despite this, Mayor Piotrusiewicz said that there "will be enough space in the beer gardens" for any fans that want to drink and enjoy the summer sun.

Mr Piotrusiewicz, who speaks fluent English after a stint as a school exchange student in California, was keen to stress that all Irish fans are welcome in the town and believes it will turn into "one big Irish bar".

He paid tribute to the Irish fans' ability to "lift football in most splendid ways" and hopes they bring back good memories from the football and the town.

The mayor also had reassuring words for those worried about rising hotel prices in Poland, confirming that some hotels in the Sopot area had lowered prices after his office warned the sector that it should be encouraging tourists to the area.

Sopot has virtual full employment with a jobless figure of just 2.5% and it is estimated that it attracts around two million tourists each year.

So it is not in need of extra visitors, but Mr Piotrusiewicz hopes that those Irish people who do stay here will learn enough about the town to return in the future.

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