herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

No glamour ties but well worth following Green Army on tour

trips: Euro fixture list has thrown up a few interesting destinations for Irish fans

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is delighted with his Euro 2012 opponents in the qualifiers, but you can be sure that the smiles aren't being shared in Merrion Square.

No glamour ties to force a ticket scramble for the new Aviva Stadium. No high-profile ties to attract all those juicy TV rights deals. No nice away trips to spark the fans' interest.

And yesterday's fixtures draw meant no double-headers so fans can't, for instance, see Russia on a Friday and Armenia on the following Tuesday to save on flight costs.

Here's a quick guide to what to expect:

Armenia -- September 2010

Why go?: It's one of those trips for the smug I've-been-there crowd. Not a place on the normal Irish tourist's map, Yerevan is a bustling city of museums and monasteries -- and the nightlife isn't bad either, with even its own Buddha bar (good local beers and wines too). There's plenty of sightseeing outside of the city too, with Medieval monasteries and stunning landscapes.

Why not?: Even direct from London Heathrow with British Midland, it's the bones of a five-hour flight. And it's a pity that it wasn't a double-header with the Russia game, as airline S7, which flies from Dublin to Moscow, has connections to Yerevan. You'll also need to get a visa.

Slovakia -- October 2010

Why go? It's easy to get to, you don't need a visa and the capital, Bratislava, is a firm favourite on the hen and stag party circuit -- so it should be one of the more popular trips for fans. Beer is good value and the city centre is pretty in that old-world 'Prague' way. Flights with Ryanair to the city were still at €78 yesterday (expect them to rise), while you can also get there via nearby Vienna with Aer Lingus.

Why not: It's a favourite on the hen and stag party circuit. So either you're going to love the party scene of might be put off by boozy yobs and none-too-happy bouncers.

Macedonia -- June 2011

Why go? It's a handy flight via Budapest with the excellent Malev, leaving early in the morning from Dublin and getting you to Skopje in the early afternoon -- even with the connection. Skopje's also a fascinating mix of Ottoman and Christian influences, and the beer's good value too.

Why not? Even the name Macedonia brings shivers to many spines, reminding us of incompetent Irish performances of the past. Plenty of fans have already done the Skopje trip in the past too.

Russia -- September 2011

Why go?: It's the clash of the group and Moscow's a world-class city with all the usual Red Square sights and cracking nightlife.

Why not?: Fans have felt an edginess as a foreigner there in the past, you'll need a visa (and have to queue up in Dublin for it), and hotel prices can be crippling unless you shop around. At least getting there is handy. Options include flights from Dublin with S7, via London with the likes of British Midland and BA, or via Budapest with Malev.

Andorra -- October 2011

Why go?: You're not even going to Andorra; chances are the match, as before, will be held in Barcelona in the Nou Camp training ground. It's a nice stadium in a great city with wonderful nightlife and beautiful sights in the Barri Gothic and La Rambla areas. Flights are handy too, with Aer Lingus, Ryanair or Iberia.

Why not?: Barcelona is great, but the match is low-key and has all the atmosphere around town of a pre-season friendly. Locals won't have a clue why you're in a leprechaun hat with your mates. Still, if you do only one away trip, this is probably the best bet.

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