The last time the Republic of Ireland arrived at a major international football tournament; preparations were hampered by the infamous Saipan row (ostensibly) caused by the poor facilities.
Such a scenario is unlikely to be an excuse this time round however with the Ireland squad to conduct most of its training sessions at the 15,000 capacity municipal stadium in Gdynia, home of Polish second division side Arka Gdynia.
The stadium is brand new, having been renovated at a cost of €21million and hosted its first game in February 2011. Arka still have four games left to play in their domestic season but stadium officials have ensured that the pitch will be “fit for purpose” when the Irish arrive on 5th June with reconstruction work to start on the pitch on 1st May.
As a means of getting the citizens of Gdansk, Spot and Gdynia on side, Giovanni Trapattoni’s side will stage an open training session at the venue on 5th June. This is expected to be attended by more than 10,000 locals which is an indication of the interest shown by the Polish towards the Irish.
The players meanwhile will stay in the fabulous five-star Sheraton Sopot hotel for the duration of the tournament. The resort offers panoramic views of the Baltic Sea as well as the famous Sopot pier, which will be free for the Irish players during their stay.
The Gdynia stadium was initially booked by the Swedish national association (complete with color coordinated yellow and blue seating) but with the Scandinavians drawn in a group in the Ukraine; they decided to move their operation east. The bad luck of the Swedes appears to have resulted in good luck for the Irish.