Kev’s Euro 2012 Tips – Part 1

ImageIt’s almost here! Thousands upon thousands of people are currently descending on Poland and the Ukraine where the organisers hope to be ‘Creating History Together’. This year is one of the most competitive, with the three best placed countries at the last World Cup expected to rule the roost once more. Two of these have been drawn in B, this edition’s ‘Group of Death’ alongside Portugal and Denmark, who will be pardoned for feeling aggrieved. Elsewhere England and France face off in group D while our Boys in Green will be looking to overturn the World Cup Champions and the might of Croatia and Italy on their way to group qualification.

As I have the small matter of my exams, I won’t be able to give you detailed tips as of yet, but make sure to keep up-to date with Balls Out In Public where our men will be keeping you updated about all the goings on in Poland and the Ukraine. Without any further ado, I present to you my betting tips for Euro 2012!

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Ukraine: Ticket Touts and Technological Breakdowns, Part Two

Sligo Rovers’ adventure to Ukraine  concludes with David Goulden’s Part Two Euro Diary piece. Part one available here.

So on to game day and our 5 hour journey west to the city of Poltava. Spirits were high, as we looked forward to what this mysterious city had in store for us. And with some in higher spirits than others from the night before/that morning it wasn’t long before the bus settled down for some much needed rest.

Along the way we made several toilet stops, although I’m not sure you can call a ten foot maggot-ridden hole in the ground covered by a few steel bars, a toilet. Ukrainians seem to have a severe fascination with carbonated/sparkling water and it was almost impossible to find a bottle of still water in the country. Even when we asked for still water, the shop staff in almost every shop we visited gave us sparkling, laughing at us as we paid what was probably twice the price a local would pay. To be honest, the last laugh was probably with the bus driver as we sent him home with about 1,000 litres of sparkling water in his luggage compartments.

We eventually arrived at The Pollazza Hotel in Poltava at about 3pm that day. After an hour and a half of the staff mixing up passports and keys, we eventually made it to our rooms. Although in fairness to the staff, some Sligomen didn’t help the situation by shouting at them and calling them “stupid birds”. So after this polava, we made to the restaurant for food and down to the local bar for a few pre-match pints.

When we arrived down to the local bar, only yards from our hotel, we discovered that two pubs had already been drank dry by the Sligo Rovers Dublin Supporters Club. As a former member of the group myself, I was not one bit surprised. So off to the local shop to raid the spot for whatever alcohol we could get our hands on. (It turned out there were complaints on a Ukraine website about us “drinking over 100 litres” of beer). The bottles were warm but for 30c a pop we really could not complain. Again, they were laughing at us for charging well over the nose, but we laughed back. I wonder if they know it costs €5+ for a bottle of beer in Ireland?

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Ukraine: Ticket Touts and Technological Breakdowns, Part One

Euro Diary continues with Part one of David Goulden’s adventure to Ukraine to see Sligo Rovers take on Vorskla Poltava in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg.

It’s four days since I’ve returned from Ukraine after Sligo Rovers’ scoreless draw with Ukrainian Premier Division side Vorskla Poltava, and my body still hasn’t recovered. High temperatures along with several hours of travelling and the lack of sleep takes its toll on someone who loves waking up in the morning and seeing grey skies instead of 30 degree heat at 8am. Couple my “first world problems” with our travelling parties lack of Russian and you have what we call in Sligo: “Craic”.

We started off our journey early Monday afternoon, taking the Dooley Express to Dublin Airport. Before we left, The Sligo Champion insisted on taking a photo of us in front of the bus just inside the gates of The Showgrounds for that Wednesday’s paper. We of course had to oblige, so along with a pink string vest one of the lads had acquired, we posed in front of the bus. At about 1.30 we headed off stopping along the way as we usually do to any game in Dublin at Ballinallack for supplies. At about 4.30, we arrived at Dublin Airport’s car park and after some deliberating, the driver eventually decided to park in what was most likely a larger bus companies parking spot. Oh well.

Our flight was due to take off at 7.35pm. So as us Irish usually do while waiting for anything, we went off to the bar. Shamrock Rovers faced FC Kobenhavn the day after in Denmark and as we expected there were a few Hoops hanging about. One approached us asking if one of our party was about, so we all braced ourselves for a fight with the Shams lads but it turned out this particular lad had made ‘football friends’ with one of the younger Rovers (Sligo) fans on our flight before a previous game.

At journey’s end we had travelled 9 hours by plane and 13 hours by bus, but by the far the most frustrating part of the journey was when we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport for a 9 hour stayover from 10pm to 7am. Some of the older lads in the crew (by the time you hit 27, you’re an aul lad apparently) booked a hotel room for the night to rest their weary bones. For the rest of us, we decided that 9 hours wouldn’t be enough time to bother with sleep or any comfort. Instead, we went to the city to gawk at the Eiffel Tower and be constantly pestered by local salesmen trying to sell lasers and magic flying “things”. One of our party, now known as “You..eye-land boy”, even managed to haggle one of these men down from €45 to €15 for a pretty decent laserpen, although “eye-land boy” would only go as high as €14. Deal not done. Read the rest of this entry »

“He’s the centre-back for Bohemians, actually.”

Euro Diary – from when Bohemians visited Ljubljana, Slovenia in the 2011 Europa League.

I had never been to one of my team’s away games in European competition before. Wales twice, Austria and Latvia are where Bohemians have traveled in most recent seasons but I stayed at home for every trip, due to a lack of money and being quite young that I am. But this year I began working in my first job, and the prospect of going continental with the Bohs was too great to say no to.

On Monday, June 20th, I was sitting at my desk in work, heart frantically beating all morning and very, very excited. The draw was to be made for the first and second qualifying rounds of the Europa League at 1 p.m. – and The Gypsies were in the draw. Bohs were drawn away in the first leg against the winners of the tie between NK Siroki Brijeg and Olimpija Ljubljana (Lub-Lee-Anna). And the first thing I thought was – “Er… shit.”

Lubly Anna

This reaction of trepidation with a pinch of confusion stemmed from A) we’d only have 7 days before we knew who (thus, where) we were playing, B) the fact that they were in Eastern Europe meant that they’d be quite expensive to get to, C) not knowing exactly who either of these teams were or what they were about and D) Siroki Brijeg are from Bosnia, still quite a country in grave unrest in many parts and could have been a bit unsafe.

I immediately began my research on both teams and places. I already knew that Ljubljana was the capital of Slovenia and knew it was a lovely place that was, incidentally, on my list of places to travel to already. On the other hand, I discovered that Siroki Brijeg was in fact a small town in rural Bosnia, not exactly very near the closest airport, and the team were affectionately nicknamed “fascist pigs” by the rest of the league. Lovely. I certainly knew who I was hoping for to win that round. In the end, Olimpija Ljubljana comfortably eased past Siroki 3-0 on aggregate, and looked quite a decent side in doing so.

On the Sunday before the Thursday of the game I booked and paid for everything necessary to visit Slovenia. I was accompanied by my cousin, Andrew, who was in a similar situation as myself with regards the European trip – never been on one, got a job/money, and said ‘LET’S DO THIS, COME ON BOHS.’ We woke up at a ridiculous hour on Wednesday morning before flying to Gatwick and then on to Ljubljana, and neither of us could really believe that it was finally happening. Read the rest of this entry »

When the Saints visited Iceland

St. Patrick’s Athletic recently visited Iceland to play IBV in the Europa League first round qualifier. Paul Kiernan writes about his account of the trip for the new Balls Out In Public feature – Euro Diary, which are fans’ stories of how they got on following their team away in European competition.

I was a little apprehensive before the draw. I have done a good few Pats trips in Europe before the draw was made for this year’s Europa League and I knew that we could get a team from Wales, which would have been a nice, easy tie. A lot of us knew that, but we also knew we could end up in Kazakhstan as well – or even Iceland.

Once the draw was made and we found out it was Iceland the first thing I said to the lads was “no way, we won’t do it. It’s too far away.” But then after a day on the net I came up with a simple route; Dublin-Gatwick-Iceland from Thursday to Saturday. I told the lads about these flights and that they were around €400 plus accommodation costs, we decided ‘what the heck – we will go for it!’ Getting a flight from Dublin to connect with the Iceland flight was a bit trickier, however we eventually found one leaving Ireland at 8 in the morning and the flight to Iceland was at 10.30 so we had plenty of time.

Now Iceland Express is a company I’ve never heard of but from its site etc. it looked good enough. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I booked Dublin to Gatwick to Iceland and five minutes after I paid the €400 I get a text to say we have moved the Iceland flight forward to 09.30. There was absolutely no chance we would get to London in time for that, so we had to fork out another €105 to get an earlier flight to london. €505 was now the total so far and we still have no hotel for the 2 nights. By this time friends were looking at me dismayed saying you get two weeks in Spain for this amount of money. I asked “do ya love the club or what!?”and that was enough to convince them.

Hlíðarendi Stadium, where Pats visited

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