Friday 23 February 2018

Fans raise a glass to FAI free beer but result spoils party

Grainne Cunningham

YOU CAN be a hero, just for one day . . .

Usually the soccer fans' favourite villain, FAI chief John Delaney was hoisted high by jubilant supporters last night as they made their way to Ireland's pivotal clash with Slovakia.

And the reason for his sudden popularity -- the football association had not only arranged free train transport for those travelling to Zilina for the match, they laid on free beers as well.

As the train carrying 800 merry soccer fans pulled into platform, they could not contain their love for the man who made it all possible.

"This is worth diamonds," gushed one fan while another declared he had just experienced the "best journey" of his life.

Mr Delaney, who has weathered much criticism of late over the cost of tickets and access at the Aviva Stadium, seemed to be enjoying his newfound popularity.

After years of watching soccer players receiving the glory treatment, it was his turn to float shoulder-high on a sea of green, white and gold, clutching a can of Carlsberg in his hand.

"There is a lot of doom and gloom in the country at the moment," he said, adding that a win against Slovakia would "bring a lot of positivity to the country which is badly needed".

The FAI decided to lay on the free train for the UEFA European Championship qualifier after the venue was switched from Bratislava to Zilina, causing a transport headache for travelling fans.

And last night the fans were brought back to Bratislava after the draw with the home team.

Ireland's best chances of a win were dashed when Robbie Keane missed a penalty just before half time and a golden opportunity in the dying minutes of the second half.

Full match report: see sport

Irish Independent

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