AWAY TRIP REVIEW: wroclaw, poland, september 2018
The Wroclaw Experience
Up to recently, Poland have been regular opponents for the Republic of Ireland and we have played them in 7 different Polish venues over the years, only once previously in Wroclaw in 1973, so for most fans this was another new venue.
For us living in London, this was an easy trip, a direct flight of less than 2 hours from either Luton or Stansted, although some of our more adventurous members travelled via various other cities, taking in some historical places. Bernard O’Reilly and I travelled from Luton on the morning of the game arriving in the city at lunchtime and checking into the Hotel Piast, located right beside the central railway station, where a number of Irish supporters were based, including the Derryhirk RISSC contingent.
The warm sunny afternoon was just ideal for the 30 minute stroll into the main city centre, with the obligatory pit stop on the way. As we neared the centre, the numbers of green shirts significantly increased with gatherings at the many bars and restaurants in and around the main squares of the Rynek area where the Old Town Hall is the feature building.
the ‘Venice of Poland’
As with many central European cities, there are some stunning old buildings and the more modern structures blend in such a way that none of the old character of the city is lost. I read that Wroclaw is known as the ‘Venice of Poland’ and a map of the city gives a good overview of why that is the case with the central Rynek area almost surrounded by a canal, with several others feeding into the Odra river.
Two intriguing features of interest to tourists are the Wroclaw dwarves, a community of about 170 small bronze gnomes dotted around the city and its outskirts. These started appearing around the city on 2005 as part of an anti-Communist movement.
The other being the ‘Train to Heaven’ a monument depicting an old real steam locomotive standing upright and pointing towards the sky, located at Strzegomski Square, of special interest to Pat Redmond.
This was another trip for the hard core, with around 550 tickets sold by the FAI, 27 of those being from RISSC London, with the die hards including Terry Murnane, Pat Redmond, Tommy Feely, Paul Boyle, Simon Kelly, Shawn O’Sullivan, Noel McNevin, Shane Kilcrann, Eoin Denneny, Bernard Fanthom.
Bernard and I had a nice little stroll around the main squares where most of the Boys in Green were gathering, stopping and chatting to several of the now familiar faces who are regulars at every away game.
After our walkabout, we met up with Paul Boyle first of all and settled nicely on a warm Wednesday afternoon in a nice spot looking onto the Plac Solny. It wasn’t long before we were soon to be joined by other RISSC London members who were strolling around enjoying the sun and who didn’t need any encouragement to join the pit stop.
As daylight was starting to fade it was time to head out to the stadium which we knew was about 6 miles from the city centre. We know we needed to get a tram, but which tram and from where? Deciding to follow a group of Polish fans, we were pleasantly surprised to find the tram stop just around the corner from where we were. Piling on, there was some good humoured banter with the locals during the 25 minute tram journey out to the stadium.
The Wroclaw Stadium has a capacity of 42000 and was built for the 2012 UEFA Championships finals held in Poland. It is the home of Slask Wroclaw who play in the Polish Ekstraklasa, the Polish premier league. The first event held in the stadium which opened in September 2011 was a heavyweight boxing match involving Vitali Klitschko.
Pleasantly, the section for away fans was open to the right of one of the goals and nothing like the oppressive conditions we endured in Antalya in Turkey last March.
we feared the worst
After the disappointing performance against Wales a few days earlier, we feared the worst. Rumours of a reported burst up between Harry Arter and Roy Keane and some withdrawals for injuries didn’t exactly inspire confidence and with Poland fielding an almost full strength side with only Robert Lewandowski missing from their line up, the signs weren’t good.
Martin O’Neill gave starts to Aidan O’Brien, Shaun Williams and Enda Stevens with John Egan partnering Richard Keogh, who captained the team, in the centre of defence. It was surprisingly pleasing to see Ireland play with such confidence in the first half, passing the ball about with confidence and not panicking even when Poland started pressing as the game developed. At half time we were happy with 0-0.
The second half got underway with Ireland still playing confidently. After 53 minutes the Polish crowd were stunned and the small travelling band of Irish fans went into raptures when the Boys in Green took the lead with a cracking goal scored by Aidan O’Brien heading home Calum O’Dowda’s exquisite cross from the right.
Matt Doherty, David Meyler, Grahame Burke, Conor Hourihane, Daryl Horgan and Alan Judge were all introduced as Poland stepped up the pressure. It looked like we were going to hold out for the win but with 87 minutes on the clock Polish substitute Mateusz Kilch played a neat one two and slipped the ball past Darren Randolph denying Ireland the win. Nevertheless, a creditable draw and a much improved performance was a welcome outcome.
A short but thoroughly enjoyable trip
We left the stadium in high spirits, joined the scrum for trams arriving back to the city centre just after midnight. After a bite to eat, straight back to the hotel to grab a couple of hours shut eye before an early flight back to London. A short but thoroughly enjoyable trip.