President Michael D. Higgins has led the exodus of Irish fans to Poland on a Ryanair jet for the Euro 2012 kick-off – as trouble erupted on the streets of Poznan.
Eye-witness reports say several hundred Irish fans were caught up in the melee as Polish hooligans from the local Lech club attacked Croatian supporters in the city’s square late on Saturday night.
Irish fans were not the target of the attacks and most didn’t get involved but many were said to be shaken by the experience.
Irish Sun newspaper reporter Mark May tweeted: “ ----Down the Old Square Poznan last night, chairs and bottles thrown everywhere, Lech Poznan hooligans attacked a group of Croats.”
May added: “Polish lads covered in blood. No Irish involved tho some threw bottles. Most legged it when it kicked off. Others were locked into pubs.
“Most Irish fans continued to party on the other side of the Square. Lots had no idea what even happened.”
Another Irish supporter wrote on fans website www.ybig.ie: “Well there was a full blown fight in Poznan last between Polish and Croatian fans.
“Chairs, tables, everything was flying, got a few cuts from broken glass but that is about it.
“Croatian fans I was with said this group of Croatian hooligans planned it, police were warned but did not step in to prevent it.”
The incidents in Poznan occurred before Irish president Michael D. Higgins arrived in the Polish city aboard a Ryanair flight from Dublin.
A total of 130 flights left Dublin Airport for Poznan on Sunday morning with many more departing from Cork, Shannon and Belfast.
Estimates say as many as 30,000 Irish fans have arrived in Poznan ahead of Ireland’s game with Croatia on Sunday night, many of them without tickets.
President Higgins took a direct Ryanair flight to Poznan with hundreds of Irish fans but he didn’t get the full Ryanair treatment, according to thejournal.ie, who published a photograph taken by Sunday Times journalist Mark Tighe of his cavalcade of cars dropping him to the plane.
The photo is available at http://twitpic.com/9utvs3.