Euro 2012 diary: All eyes turn to Macedonia for bonus
WHILE distracted Irish minds will be keeping an eye on events in Slovakia on Friday as the Russians visit Zilina, it also promises to be a huge occasion in Yerevan where Armenia host Macedonia.
The Armenians have sold out the game weeks in advance and know that three points will keep them very much in the qualification hunt. Indeed, they will arrive in Dublin next Tuesday with high hopes of nabbing a play-off spot. Football fever has hit the emerging nation.
So, Ireland could do with a favour from John Toshack's Macedonia. Unfortunately, the omens aren't good. Much talk in Macedonia revolves around the team's inability to score goals, and the absence of Goran Pandev hardly helps.
Earlier this week, the squad were apparently shown a PowerPoint presentation to inspire them along, while Toshack organised a friendly between the senior team and the U-21s.
Worryingly, it finished 0-0.
Ward remembers his
Stephen Ward remembers his roots and, with this being a Bohemians-Shamrock Rovers derby week, he was conscious of toning down praise for the Hoops' Europa League exploits.
Still, he had personal reasons to take pleasure from their performance against Spurs. "Stephen Rice was brilliant, and he was a good friend of mine when we were at Bohs," he said.
"I can't be too nice being a former Bohs man, but it was great to see an Irish side go there and give a good account.
" I thought they were outstanding."
On a positive Bohs note, however, Ward delivered a bulletin on the progress of Matt Doherty. The defender was snapped up by Mick McCarthy last year after a friendly between the sides, despite his lack of competitive League of Ireland experience. Now, the Dubliner is in the Premier League picture after a substitute appearance at Anfield a fortnight ago.
"If he keeps his head right, then he's got a big future," Ward said.
Quote of the day
"Got any tickets?"
A phrase repeated around Dublin Airport yesterday morning, as hordes of Irish fans set off on their journey with no guarantee of being able to see the game.
Number of the day
3Survivors from the last 'away' game v Andorra which took place in Barcelona in 2001.
Shay Given, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane all started on that occasion.