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Every day for the next few football-packed weeks we’ll while away the hours before the actual soccer by hanging out here. Do join us.

Let’s do this! The European Championships have at last arrived and with it ends Ireland’s 10-year wait for a return to a major championships. Excuse us, while we blow up this inflatable hammer. Each day throughout the tournament hang around these daily liveblogs like touts outside Warsaw’s main train station. Send us pictures of where you’re watching the match, your journey to Poland, your tricolour-painted garden wall or sheep, your green tuxedo. Anything.

It’s going to be an interesting ride, whatever happens on the pitch. Take it away there, Gaybo…

YouTube: EastTerracer

Our favourite translator this side of Seamus Heaney (we’re big fans of his Beowulf version, on the sports desk), Manuel Spinelli has her priorities right this morning. While the squad are training she’s sorting out a mid-morning treat:

Check out her Twitter stream here

Speaking of RTÉ panellists, we caught up with Eamon Dunphy yesterday on Stephen’s Green. Here’s what he has to say about the big game™ on Sunday.

“If we get something on Sunday night – a win or a draw – then we’re set up. Then if it comes down to the last match and we have to beat Italy, I would be fairly confident that we could do that. Our record is excellent at big tournaments and part of that is down to morale and spirit of the group. Many of them have been together a long time and they bond well, whereas other countries have problems when they’re in camp and rows often break out.”

Read the rest of Ben Blake’s article here, if you can’t wait ’til this evening to hear more from Eamo.

We have Miguel Delaney on the ground in Poland (and hopefully Ukraine) throughout the next month or so. This morning he runs through each team and what they can hope and expect. Guess who he’s writing about here…

They’ll most likely get: a tough battle for second in the group, ending with elimination.

Find out here…

News reaches us that Shay Given is training with the squad at the moment. And in front of him? The same 10 in bibs as yesterday. So it looks like we know the starting XI.

Well, I nearly crashed the car into the front of Josephine’s in Urlingford last night when the Off The Ball lads had Trap walk into their Polish man cave. I’m looking forward to Murph’s column with TheScore on Monday.

YouTube: Newstalk106108fm

So are you going to watch the match tonight? Pub or home? It’s a debate that will ring through the ages. One brewing company, Eight Degrees,  have come up with this new option for beer drinkers. The picture is taken in Against The Grain, I’m told:

UEFA has now been made aware that there were some isolated incidents of racist chanting that occurred at the open training sessions of the Dutch team (on Wednesday) in Krakow,” a statement released today reads. “UEFA has not yet received any formal complaint from the KNVB (Dutch football federation).”

Check out the full story here.

Miguel has just been talking to Mr Trapattoni after squad training and is currently writing what will be another award-winning report, I’m sure. In the meantime, here’s one choice quote from the Italian:

“I am not [exactly] excited. I am a little tense. But I want to keep a level of tension. A manager has to. It keeps the players [on edge]. It’s a positive tension.”

I think we know how he feels, right?

PELLUNTYS! Ciaran O’Raghallaigh has uploaded this footage of the Irish players practising spotters. Paul McShane seems to fancy himself as someone to step up.

YouTube: Ciarano

We’ve been on to Champion Sports in Dublin Airport where one unlucky Ireland fan seems to have left his match tickets. Are you out there Oliver? Here’s the full story.

So we told you Miguel Delaney was just out of Trap’s press conference earlier. Here’s what we learned.

PS: he loves you, Ireland fans.

Right, I’m off for my carb-loaded lunch of chicken and pasta ahead of the big games tonight. Conor Nagle will be parachuting in, in true opening ceremony style, to keep this party going.

Witam wszystkich!

That’s “hello everyone” in Polish, or so Google Translate informs me. Well, it was either that or “Halo,” and I opted for the more exotic, consonant-heavy option…

Anyway, before this here liveblogging extravaganza takes the road less travelled, check out this tweet from young @Fofarty:

@YouBoysInGreen chap from Kilnamanagh is cruising round in this beast. Flags, mirror covers n hudcaps all done now too”

Card-happy Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers will take charge of Ireland’s tournament opener against Croatia. He’s dismissed 10 players in his last 27 matches (and has yet to witness the athletic majesty of a Paul McShane leveller).

There’s an emoticon for what you’re feeling: :-/

Damian Coughlan, the unfortunate – or, to play devil’s advocate, negligent – fan who left tickets for each of Ireland’s group stage matches in Dublin Airport, can rest easy (details here).

Dr. Ian McHale, a senior lecturer in statistics at the University of Salford and chair of the Royal Statistical Society’s sports department (yes, an actual thing), has worked mathematical magic to chart the likely course of Euro 2012.

Taking account of numerous variables – everything from current form to the perceived ability of nations to cope with pressure - McHale has ranked each team’s likelihood of graduating from the group stage and, eventually, leaving Kiev with the Trophée Henri Delaunay.

According to the study, Spain (12%) are most likely to win the tournament, closely followed by Joachim Loew’s Germany (11%), England (10%) and Russia (9%). The Netherlands, World Cup finalists in 2010, only merit a seeding of fifth.

Ireland (7%) are ranked eighth, above both Italy (10th) and Croatia (13th).

(via Ciarán Ó’Raghallaigh)

Under different circumstances, Miguel’s most recent tweet would qualify as one of the most boring in social media history. As it is, it’s the stuff of heady anticipation…

After spending several minutes locked in mortal combat with a set of tangled iPod headphones (two sets, actually, plus a set of phone cables… nightmare), I’m back in business!

Time to turn our attention to matters political:

The Ukrainian government has responded to British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s decision to confirm a government boycott of the tournament’s group stage.

Speaking to assembled media about the announcement, conceived of as an expression of solidarity with jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, ambassador Volodymyr Khandogiy suggested the move was inappropriate:

“There are plenty of opportunities and fora and formats where we can discuss these issues, in the Council of Europe, the EU and bilaterally. We are ready to continue these discussions and to accept criticism. But we would like to put our perspective on these issues also. The reason for not attending I don’t understand, since I believe that sport and politics, they don’t mix.”

(Full report from the Guardian’s Luke Harding: here)

If you’ve yet to board a flight to Eastern Europe and suffer from a variety of germ-related neuroses, you might want to peruse the HuffPost’s latest highbrow slideshow: The 5 Germiest Places At the Airport.

Your sweaty cacks are mysteriously absent.

It’s real! RTÉ coverage has just started…

Eamon’s already cranking up the populist rhetoric:

“I’m optimistic. I think we have a good chance of getting to the second stage. Going around town today – the place is buzzing… It’s a nice occasion for the nation, and I think we have a squad of players that deserve respect…”

No tears yet, though.

Tony O’Donoghue on Shay Given’s fitness:

“In the last three days, we’ve had Alan Kelly, Marco Tardelli and Giovanni Trappatoni telling us he’s 100% fit, but if he was 100% fit, he would have taken 100% part in training… He took full part in the training session today, and it was a relief to see him jumping and diving around, kicking footballs.”

John Giles on Shay Given’s fitness:

“I don’t think he’d be [training] unless he was ready to play… He was doing all the things you’d want him to do two days before a game…”

Eamo:

“No! No! I don’t think it’s great news… Clearly, he hasn’t been doing the work he needs to be doing… Goalkeepers need to be working a lot on their reaction stuff, and I don’t think he’s been doing that.”

Liam Brady:

“I was around them a couple of years ago, and Shay doesn’t do a lot of training… I disagree with Eamonn; I don’t think goalkeepers need to be doing a lot of training. Westwood is fantastic replacement.”

Not only is this the catchiest Euro 2012 anthem to date, it features a Dunphy-led tin whistle solo!

Shred it, Eamo! (Truly, he romances the tin whistle.)

France coach Laurent Blanc, he of the trendy frames and soul patch, has added his voice to the chorus of Football Men critical of Roy Hodgson’s decision to omit Rio Ferdinand from England’s tournament squad.

The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson has the quotage:

“I know Rio Ferdinand well and it’s true that it looks from my point of view that the choice not to pick him is not a footballing choice… There are clearly other things. I think that Rio Ferdinand is a very good player even if he is closer to the end of his career. It was very surprising for me to see that he was not picked despite all the injuries they have at the back.”

Our live coverage of Poland vs. Greece, the tournament curtain-raiser, has begun in earnest.

Join Tony Cuddihy for minute-by-minute updates at the end on the other end of this convenient link.

The internets are ablaze with sporting positivity and goodwill, but it would be remiss of us to ignore the controversy surrounding the host countries’ somewhat patchy record when it comes to discouraging the racial abuse of athletes.

Guardian columnist Richard Williams claims Uefa’s refusal to intervene following the Netherlands’ shambolic open training session yesterday afternoon makes both it an “accessor[y] to a crime”.

“The attempt to pretend that the abuse came from fans disappointed that Krakow was not included in the tournament’s match schedule flies in the face of the testimony from the players themselves… by reaching an exculpatory judgment on a matter of great sensitivity with what seems like indecent haste, Uefa has made it look as though it is primarily interested in sweeping the matter under the red carpet on which it will parade at the opening ceremony.”

@OptaJoe informs me that Carlos Velasco Carballo, currently refereeing Poland-Greece on the other blog, saw fit to issue 16 red cards in the 19 Liga matches he officiated in this season.

Yowza!

As Lewandowski nods Poland into the lead and, in doing so, gets this tournament properly underway, it’s time for me to bring this here liveblog to a halt.

Fret not, I’ll be back in little over an hour with live coverage of the evening’s second game, Russia v. Czech Republic.

Widzenia!/ Slán!/ Goodbye!

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