By Ciaran O Raghallaigh in Poland
The Municipal Stadium in Gdynia was home to the first training session of the week for Ireland, hours after they arrived from Budapest.
On the way, it seemed we’d hit a bit of rush-hour traffic, but when we asked the driver why it was so slow he simply said ‘football’.
We explained there was no game, just training, but he simply shrugged and kept going. It took one corner to prove he was correct.
Barriers and banners covered the road, and we had to get out and walk to the stadium. The crowd – and it was later estimated at almost 14,000 – WERE there to watch Ireland play. Faces were painted, flags and balloons were given out. It was as if they were going to watch Brazil.
The organisers created a real party atmosphere, with one contraption that turns and twists you so you know just how Glenn Whelan feels playing in Ireland’s midfield. Then there was the ‘bouncy castle’ with the name Titanic on it – and clearly on its way down. Symbolic? Let’s hope not.
Cheerleaders warmed the crowd up – and I mean warmed – and soon the players emerged to great cheers. Some pidgin Irish from the PA was well received and then a huge tricolour added to the colour. Trapattoni took the biggest cheer of the day, and then got down to what he does best: training.
The Irish manager was later asked about whether the squad was overtraining ahead of Sunday’s opening clash against Croatia after Aiden McGeaney reported that some of the players felt a bit ‘jaded’ after Monday night’s 0-0 draw in Hungary.
An electrical storm after the team had completed their warm-up delayed kick-off and there was some doubt as to whether the game would even go ahead. The Irish team flew out of Hungary immediately afterwards and did not arrive at their Polish base of Gdynia until 3.15am.
But Trap, in his best pidgin English, dismissed fears of tiredness as being mainly ‘psychological’.
“The Bosnia game was only two days before, so maybe this is why the players feel they have not had enough rest,” he said.