/ Euro 2012

Glenn Mason's Euro 2012 diary

Updated: Sunday, 10 Jun 2012 12:45

Glenn was so taken by the service station in Bydgoszcz that he took this snap
Glenn was so taken by the service station in Bydgoszcz that he took this snap

by Glenn Mason

Game day is finally here. After ten years of waiting, Irish journalists can finally ask questions of Irish players at a major tournament.

Although for much of Saturday's pre-match press conference it looked like we would have to wait another ten years to ask those questions.

Italian journalists seemed to take over the press conference, which was controlled by a UEFA delegate at the top table.

There were cries of derision (and a few swear words) from Irish journalists as the UEFA blazer pointed to another of the foreign journalists, who were more focused on Giovanni Trapattoni than the Irish team.

Eventually, captain Robbie Keane spoke up and intervened on our behalf.

"The Irish press are waiting ten years for us to get to a competition, so I think it will be only fitting if we let them ask some questions," he said.

A small round of applause followed from some of the grateful journalists and we were able to ask about the fitness of the Irish team and how much it means for Keane to be back playing at this level.

The complementary media bag for journalists with accreditation contains all sorts of little goodies, including a stress ball. It could come in very useful if Ireland are hanging on for a result late in games.

They bulk of the press group had made the trip from Sopot to Poznan in a five-hour bus journey, accompanied by a well-meaning guide with way too much information.

Any plans for a quiet evening or to research the game were scuppered with the constant chatter coming from the front of the bus. Some took to drink, while others turned their iPods up to the maximum level.

There were numerous dull updates about the tri-city area of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia as we headed for the motorway to take us to central Poland.

I dozed off along the way only to wake to her telling the rest of the gang about storks and their popularity in the wetlands of central Poland.

Mercifully, we stopped at a service station on the outskirts of the city of Bydgoszcz.

We had missed the opening game of the tournament between Poland and Greece and would miss the second game of the night between Russia and the Czech Republic.

Shamrock Rovers fans used to sing to Jason Byrne that he "went all the way to Poland and you never touched the ball" after he made his Ireland debut as a substitute in a friendly in Bydgoszcz in 2004.

I know how he felt .We went all the way to Bydgoszcz and never saw the 'ball either.

During the short stop the #bustopoznan crew huddled together after sampling the culinary delights a motorway service station has to offer.

Back on the coach, we were given a brief history of the city of Torun, which we were neither stopping in nor going through. We heard that it was the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and that it is famed for its gingerbread.

Poland became part of the European Union in May 2004 but for our guide it was not all good news, as Poland's bike-making tradition was killed off "when it became part of United Europe".

Still, at least there is now a "fascination of colour after a grey reality" in the country.

When the updates for Poznan's mixed history started 100kms out from the city, I knew it was time for another snooze.

It was a relieved and weary crew that reached the hotel at around 11pm. Thankfully, the return trip to Gdansk on Monday morning is a guide-less short flight.

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