After an early morning alarm call we're heading to Poznan on a five-hour road trip for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 opener, writes Dave Kelly.

Close on 20,000 Irish fans are expected in the city in the coming days. Many of those are unlikely to be at the game itself, and for those supporters the place to be is the official UEFA Fan Zone.

We hope to be speaking to the Irish fans there this afternoon on RTÉ Two ahead of the opening game between Poland and Greece.

The Fan Zone concept was first used at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the success of it there led to its introduction at a European Championships for the first time two years later.

The Poznan Fan Zone is located at Plac Wolnosci (Freedom Square), where over the course of the tournament up to 500,000 fans will be catered for.

Admission is free and all the games will be broadcast on a giant screen. The Zone opens from 3pm to 2am on match days, and 3pm to midnight on non-match days.

Away from the game action itself there will be plenty to keep the Irish fans occupied with DJ sets, live music and five-a- side pitches, where any cobwebs gathered on the way over can hopefully be shaken off.

The Fan Zone is sure to be the central meeting point for both Irish and Croatian fans ahead of Sunday's game.

Apart from the two host nations, Germany are expected to be the best supported team at the finals, followed by the boys in green.

For those staying at home a summer with Irish involvement at a major tournament is hard to beat.

Those of us old enough remember where we were when Ray Houghton scored in Stuttgart and the Giants Stadium, the penalty shootout in Genoa, the late equaliser against Germany 10 years ago and the penalty shootout exit to Spain at that same World Cup.

A seven-year-old Robbie Keane was no doubt inspired by the exploits of the Euro 88 side, although the youngest member of this squad, James McClean, wasn't even born.

On Thursday I had planned to make the short trek to Gdansk to report on how Spain were gearing up for the opening game of their European Championship defence.

Word came through overnight from the Spanish media officer that the open session was now closed so it was off to Gydnia for the latest on Shay Given's fitness. We got access to the last 15 minutes of the training session and all eyes were on the Donegal man, who was in the main training alone with Alan Kelly.

Marco Tardelli insists that Given is 100% fit and Kelly himself was also in an optimistic frame of mind the day before. The majority of Irish fans won't relax until they see Given walk out along with his team mates at the Municipal Stadium at around 7.40pm on Sunday night.

There was somewhat of a media scrum after the training session with the ever growing band of journalists frantically scrambling for some words of wisdom from the players. Again talk of Shay Given's fitness dominated.

The players have looked relaxed and in really good spirit all week.

It's been suggested that international football means more to the Irish players than perhaps it does to some of their team mates at club level. That is a debate for another day.

Clearly there are far more technically gifted sides in not only the tournament but also in Ireland's first round group.

Giovanni Trapattoni's 'must not lose' mentality has served the team well up to this point, and may well do so again in Poznan and Gdansk over the next 10 days.