Sport European Championships

Monday 22 September 2014

Delaney: Failure to qualify for Euro 2016 is not an option

John Fallon

Published 28/07/2014 | 02:30

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Outgoing FAI President Paddy McCaul, left, hands over the Presidential chain to newly elected FAI President Tony Fitzgerald at the association's AGM
Outgoing FAI President Paddy McCaul, left, hands over the Presidential chain to newly elected FAI President Tony Fitzgerald at the association's AGM

The linkage between Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane and the recovery by the FAI from their financial struggles has been illustrated in John Delaney's comments on Ireland's Euro 2016 qualification expectations.

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The FAI chief executive rated the prospects of reaching France in two years' time at 80pc.

For that qualification to unfold automatically, Ireland must finish among the top two in a group that also features World Cup champions Germany, Poland and Scotland.

Third place in the pool, by nudging out one of the Scots or Poles, would clinch a play-off spot.

O'Neill and Keane have enjoyed more laughs off the pitch than on it since being appointed last November, not savouring victory since the opening friendly win against lowly Latvia.

The fun will be over should the campaign fail to achieve the start needed when they make the trek to Georgia in five weeks' time.

"I've got to be confident (about qualifying) because we don't appoint Martin O'Neill and Roy just to make up the numbers," said Delaney.

"We appointed them to qualify. They're two very ambitious men who've succeeded both on and off the field in the past, especially Martin as a manager.

"The Irish public expect us to qualify and the rules have changed that there's 24 teams going to the Euros instead of 16.

"It's a difficult group with the world champions Germany in there, along with Scotland and Poland.

"But on our chances out of 10, you've got to say eight.

"We're second seeds in the group and we're favourites on the books to go through. The odds are in our favour," he added.

Reaching the finals would not only net the FAI a qualification bonus from UEFA of at least €8m – more importantly, it would attract punters to Lansdowne Road.

Swathes of empty green seats were visible for their last home game against Turkey in May when an official attendance of 25,000 was declared by the FAI within the 50,000-seater stadium.

Keane and O'Neill are integral to the latest ticket sales drive.

Pride of place atop the list of 27 benefits available to prospective members of the newly-launched Club Ireland 10-year premium ticket scheme goes to an exclusive invite to "an evening with Martin and Roy".

Given how demanding Keane's schedule will be on foot on his job sharing commitments between Ireland and Aston Villa, one can expect the Cork man will want any networking with the football family to be delayed until a clearer path towards qualification is established.

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