Our final day in Montecatini and, day eight of our grand tour of Europe, started early, as we had a 90-minute bus ride to Bologna Airport for the flight to Budapest.

Before setting off, a weary group of journalists chatted down the back of the bus and joked about somebody always leaving something behind.

Suddenly, TV3's Tommy Martin popped up out of his seat and sprinted away mumbling about something in the wardrobe. He returned with the "good work suit" to much laughter from the giddy, sleep-deprived hacks.

The journey to Budapest was not without its problems, as there were baggage issues for TV3, BBC and Sky as they tried to bring their cameras on board the Ryanair flight. All it took was a handover of cash and all was resolved.

The bus booked to take us from the airport then failed to show, but a well-organised taxi operation managed to rectify the situation.

After the moderate standard of accommodation in Tuscany, it was a relief to have a strong wi-fi connection and, more importantly, functioning air conditioning, which was much-needed in the sweltering urban heat of Budapest.

An indication that the tournament was drawing near was the expanded press corps, with several newspaper reporters joining their colleagues from Montecatini.

It was my first trip to Budapest and it is a place I would like to return to. One full day is not enough to see what a city this size had to offer.

Some sampled the local baths, while others took in the main sights, and in second city of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, there was quite a lot to see.

The former Nep Stadium is just a short and cheap metro journey away from the city centre. The renamed Frence Puskas Stadium is far from its best and there are numerous reminders of Hungary's glorious football past hanging on the walls

The weather changed dramatically in the hours before kick-off and there was an electric atmosphere both inside and around the stadium.

As the Hungarian fans chanted at each other from behind both goals as a biblical downpour soaked them to the skin, lightning flashes lit up the night sky and thunder crackled overhead.

It will please many people to know that the torrential rain was blown into the press area by the prevailing wind, with journalists shielding their laptops or scurrying for cover further up the stand.


There were dark clouds for Ireland on the pitch and they were given a first-half chasing by a young Hungarian side. The watching Croatian manager Slaven Bilic will not lose any sleep ahead of Sunday's Group C opener.

In a tense press conference afterwards, Trapattoni's tactics came under review and he admitted that the days could be numbered for his rigid 4-4-2 formation, well, that's what we think he was claiming.

The team arrived in Sopot on an overnight charter flight, while the poor hacks had to settle for two flights and a three-and-a-half stopover in Warsaw International Airport.

The wait gave us time to scour the airport for seats near plug sockets and digest last night's performance and the players' reaction to it.

There is a lot to do be done by the players this week in Poland, both on and off the pitch. The opening game against Croatia just five days away, the real work starts now for all of us.