Boys in Green kick off campaign

 

President Michael D Higgins and Taosieach Enda Kenny have  called on the Ireland team to do what is necessary in Euro 2012 as they open their championship bid against Croatia tonight.

Greeted by a 20-strong crowd from west Belfast outside the squad’s hotel in Poznan, the President said he was hopeful of good results.

“I think we’re going to do well. We’re very hopeful. I think much depends on how the game starts in the first 15 minutes, to see the style of the game, the pattern,” he said. “I imagine there will be some changes. I sent a message to wish the team well and also to the fans.”

The President, a lifelong Galway United supporter and the club president, was presented with an Ireland jersey by manager Giovanni Trapattoni ahead of the game in the Miejski stadium.

After shaking hands with the fans from Belfast and others in the foyer of the hotel Mr Higgins said: “That’s a great bunch of lads out there. I wish the team every success and as I said before play strong and do what’s
necessary.”

The President opted not to take the Government jet to Poland and flew into Poznan on a commercial flight this morning alongside several hundred Irish fans.

President Higgins is in Poznan for one night and will meet local dignitaries tomorrow before returning to Ireland.

This afternoon, Mr Kenny sent a message of support to the Irish team. “I wish Giovanni and the lads the best of luck this evening. It has been a long hard road to get this far and the commitment, dedication and skill shown by everyone involved has been excellent,” he said in a statement.

“The fans are already making a huge and positive impact in Poland, while here at home the sense of excitement and pride is wonderful. Everybody is right behind the Boys in Green and we know they will give it their everything. I wish them every success.”

Meanwhile, three Irish supporters were among 14 arrested in Poznan early this morning after dozens of riot police were dispatched to the Old Town square. The men were detained on suspicion of public order offences, vandalism and damage to property, but are not thought to have been involved in clashes with police that saw others arrested.

They have since been released.

They are believed to have been with a large group of people from other countries when bottles, glasses and a lamp were smashed in a bar.

One Croat and 10 Poles were detained after violence broke out in Stary Rynek, where thousands of fans had spent the night enjoying largely good natured pre-match celebrations ahead of tonight’s Euro 2012 game against between Ireland and CroatiaElsewhere, two Irish fans were detained off a flight into the city on Friday after staff on the plane reported them for disorderly and abusive behaviour.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that most of the consular work over the last week has been dealing with lost or stolen wallets or travel documents and problems people had with either unopened or unfinished campsites.

A special campervan zone has been built to accommodate the Irish in Poznan with space for 300 motorhomes and 500 tents.

Minor scuffles involving Polish fans broke out in the main square on Poznan on Friday night after the competition opener between the hosts and Greece. Riot police and mounted units swiftly intervened. Several Polish fans were taken away in police vans. No Irish were involved.

Additional reporting: PA

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