Friday 31 October 2014

O'Neill has no issues with England game – Delaney

Published 09/04/2014 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

FAI chief executive John Delaney says that Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has given his approval to the timing of the June 2015 Dublin friendly with England that will come just six days before the crucial Euro 2016 visit of Scotland.

The English FA have committed to a historic return to these shores – following a 20-year gap from the disgraceful scenes at Lansdowne Road – on June 7 next year.

Ireland take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium on June 13 in a game that could have significant implications for their qualifying prospects.

But rather than viewing the high-profile England friendly as a distraction, O'Neill has embraced it as the ideal warm-up, according to Delaney.

"He's positive about having a preparation game on a Sunday against England ahead of playing Scotland on the Friday because of the similar style of play, the British players, whatever it would be," said Delaney. "It's a great warm-up match for Scotland competitively and it's a big match on its own merits. That will be a big week. When Martin was taking the job, I mentioned there was an England game in the offing and it was something he responded to very positively."

O'Neill was in court in England yesterday giving evidence in a dispute between a football agent Tony McGill and Bolton Wanderers over the sale of ex-Aston Villa midfielder Gavin McCann under the Derryman's watch.

The itinerary of his current job is gradually taking shape, with confirmation expected shortly on the remainder of this summer's plans with a trip to the USA for matches with Costa Rica and Portugal after the Dublin friendly with Turkey and a London encounter with Italy.

Two more exhibition matches will be announced for later this year around the early stages of the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Delaney confirmed that an Aviva match will take place in September before the trip to Georgia for the first competitive match of O'Neill's tenure, and there will also be a game in November after the away encounter with Scotland.

Those games will be added to the FAI's new six-game season ticket package that is headlined by the English clash; the competitive fixtures with Gibraltar (October 2014), Poland (March 2015) and the Scotland match are also part of a deal that Delaney has described the best value in Irish sport with children's tickets from €54 and adult prices starting from €138.

AFTERMATH

The announcement of the English showdown is the culmination of a long process that sped up in the aftermath of the Euro 2016 draw in Nice where the nations avoided each other.

"There was a commitment England would come back and play a friendly (after 1995) and it's taken 20 years funnily enough," said Delaney. "But it's something they wanted to do. They wanted a reciprocal agreement that we would play the first game in Wembley last year and the second one in Dublin."

Delaney is sure there will be no security danger next year, believing that the organisers are better equipped than they were ahead of the 1995 fixture that was abandoned due to crowd trouble caused by visiting hooligans when Ireland were ahead.

"I think both associations have moved on to an enormous extent," said Delaney. "The English have a far better understanding of their spectactor profile. Everything went well in Wembley, both anthems were respected by the supporters, there were no arrests, everything went off okay. It's taken a while, but this is something the Irish football public will be very excited about."

Meanwhile, the Government have given their support to the FAI's bid to stage part of Euro 2020. Final bids will be submitted to UEFA at the end of this month with strong competition around the continent. Formal political support was not a requirement, but it is, nevertheless, a bonus for the association who want to stage three group games and a round of 16 knockout tie. They will know their fate in September.

Irish Independent

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