ROI party given warm welcome on arrival in host country ahead of Euro 2012



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Irish captain Robbie Keane signs autographs as the squad land in Poland ahead of the tournament which starts for them on 10th June


The Republic of Ireland squad and backroom staff were greeted with affection in Poland with over 13,000 welcoming them off the plane and then attending their first open training session at the Arka Gdynia Stadium near Gdansk.

But behind the smiles, the cheerleaders and green, white and orange balloons which greeted the Ireland manager and his 23-man squad at the training base near the Baltic coast in Gdynia, there are signs of growing unrest in the Irish squad.

Several players have complained of fatigue after the training camp in Tuscany and goalkeeper Shay Given remains an injury concern as he battles with a calf strain which threatens his start in Sunday’s opener against Croatia.

Trapattoni insists that the withdrawal of the number one choice goalkeeper Given at half-time in Monday's goalless draw in Hungary was pre-arranged and that Given will train on Wednesday despite sitting out a light session in Gdynia. The 73-year old coach Trapattoni will also have to deal with increasing disquiet among his players, some of whom have been with the Irish squad for 21 days today. The Italian- who will be the oldest coach at the tournament- says he will stick with his plan to start with the side he named on Sunday for the 5pm kick-off in Poznan against Slaven Bilic's men.

After the 0-0 draw in Budapest against the Hungarians, former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady said: "A lot of players felt a bit jaded and we were saying that at half-time. There was such a high intensity, we may have to take it easy in training. We’ve been together now for a couple of weeks and training has been very tough, we’ve all said it, that’s been tough for the last couple of weeks but this week I think it’s going to be more a case of just ticking over and making sure we’re sharp enough."

However the Republic of Ireland laughed off the concerns of his players in the post-match press-conference in the Hungarian capital saying: "The training camp in Montecatini was a holiday. My first concern is never to push the players too hard in training. I am always flexible with them. I don’t think McGeady was tired, although maybe psychologically after playing against Bosnia. Sometimes the players speak because they want to answer but they don’t think about what they are saying. I have seen the Hungary game again and I must clarify with the team why we had difficulties. I thought we were slower than normal whereas usually we are very aggressive. We will look at this but we will not make changes."

Meanwhile, Wolves winger Stephen Hunt, who like many others in the squad is playing in his first major international tournament, says he will treat the European Championship finals bow seriously as if he was making his Premier League debut all over again. The 30-year-old former Reading player, who was relegated to the Championship with the Molineux side last month, made a good impression after coming off the bench in the Republic of Ireland's 0-0 draw with Hungary in Budapest on Monday night.

"It's about hiding the excitement, to a certain degree, and trying to stay calm and focussed for the next three games and do ourselves justice like we know we can. There are six days to go and if you are not in the zone now for the European Championship, then you will never be. I feel fit, I feel well and excited, but I will just try to keep my focus and look forward to the games. We are playing for the nation next week, and it means a lot to us as players and our supporters. We are looking forward to it." Hunt explained.

However he knows that, unless manager Giovanni Trapattoni rethinks his original plans somewhat, will start on the bench with Fulham's Damien Duff and Spartak Moscow's Aiden McGeady preferred in the wide midfield roles for the match with the Croatians. However, he insists he will not let the excitement of the tournament in Poland & Ukraine take over his emotions adding: "I am focussed, I really am. I have waited a long time for this and I am going to make the most of it. I am not here to enjoy it. I am here to take an experience, to a certain degree, but we are here to do well. I remember playing my first game in the Premier League and being focussed, and I have the same feeling, so it's going to be great."

The 28-year old Hunt replaced Duff after 63 minutes at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium and ensured that his country's unbeaten run extended to fourteen matches after clearing off the line with six minutes to go.

He said: "You have got to do what you can do on the pitch when you get on there. It was pretty positive last night, so I will take a little bit of confidence. I have trained for the last three weeks every day and it's been good for me. The manager talks about small details. I wasn't too sure whether to come off the line or stay on the line. The danger hadn't been cleared, so I stayed on the line. It could go against you - sometimes you could play strikers onside and they could tap it in. But it was the right decision, I suppose. I was a bit nervous when it came to me. I saw it all the way, to be honest with you, and it was just a matter of getting a good clearance and making sure it didn't bobble over my foot, thank God."


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