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Kelly's Eye on Euro 2012: The Polish party begins

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Jun 2012 10:43 | Comments

The Mayor of Sopot can be expecting a call ...
The Mayor of Sopot can be expecting a call ...

The good folk of Sopot and Gydnia welcomed the Republic of Ireland squad to Poland with open arms on Tuesday.

It was just after 3am local time when the squad arrived into their base in Sopot on Tuesday morning.

Along with our own RTÉ cameraman, there was also significant interest from the Polish media with plenty of photographers and TV crews also there at the team hotel.

Understandibly the players looked a little weary, having arrived in from Budapest, where their unbeaten run was extended to 14 games.

After some sleep the squad were welcomed to their Polish base with a civic reception in their honour in the town centre.

The Mayor of Sopot said all the right things, suggesting the team will be here for the next three weeks as they will progress past the group stage.

It was great to see such a large crowd in attendance.

There seems to be a real sense of pride in the town that the Republic of Ireland have chosen their town as their Euro 2012 base. The players took plenty of time out to sign autographs and pose for photos.

We met some Spanish fans in the town centre after the ceremony. They are expecting their own team and Italy to progress from Group C, although they did admit that the loss of David Villa and Carles Puyol was significant.

The Spanish are playing all three of their Group games in nearby Gdansk.

From Sopot it was on to The Municipal stadium in Gdynia.

It was quite the surprise to see the numbers outside the training ground when we arrived around 45 minutes before the open session was due to begin.

There was a real carnival atmosphere around the impressive venue, and the 15,000 capacity stadium was almost full when the players took to the field for their first training session on Polish soil.

With the majority of training sessions played behind closed doors this was something a little different.

For the players, Wednesday will be a day of rest. While that is not good news for the considerable Irish media pack here in Sopot, it will be welcomed by the players themselves .

The build-up to Euro 2012 began almost three weeks ago in Dublin.

The intensity in training has steadily increased as the days and weeks have past. Aiden McGeady pointed out after the Hungary game that perhaps a little less training and a little more down time was what was needed.

The team did look somewhat jaded at times in their scoreless draw on Monday night, which is understandable given the fact that the past few weeks of camp came at the end of the season.

It's perhaps inevitable that players will be more susceptible to injury in May and June.

Let's not forget the magnitude of what lies ahead for the players in the coming weeks. All but four of the Ireland squad will be sampling a major tournament for the first time.

Only four players remain from the World Cup Squad of 2002, Shay Given, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane all made significant contributions in that tournament. Richard Dunne was also in the squad but did not make an appearance.

My challenge on day four in Poland is to come up with a story without having access to any of the Irish players. Time to give the Mayor of Sopot a call, I reckon ...

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