Monday 17 December 2018

Ireland has 'great escape' from group of death for Euros

Mick McCarthy was ‘relieved’ to avoid two of the big teams. Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy was ‘relieved’ to avoid two of the big teams. Sportsfile
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Ireland had a lucky escape from the group of death as they managed to avoid Germany and the Netherlands in their quest to qualify for the 2020 European Championships.

During the draw in the Convention Centre in Dublin yesterday morning, Mick McCarthy's third seeds were initially called out in Group C with both of those sides.

But the Germans and the Dutch, along with Ireland, will host some of the matches for the tournament in 18 months' time.

A stipulation dictates that a maximum of two host nations can be placed in any one group, so the Boys in Green were instead placed in a more favourable group with Switzerland and old foes Denmark.

Georgia and Gibraltar made up the rest of the group.

But the luck of the Irish had ran out at this stage, as the next name called out in the Convention Centre was Northern Ireland - who were subsequently placed into Group C with heavyweights Germany and the Netherlands.

The stroke of fortune wasn't lost on Sports Minister Shane Ross, who tweeted his joy at the draw.

"Great escape as Ireland dodge Dutch and German bullet (Group C) here in Convention Centre" Mr Ross said. "Roll on 2020! Viva McCarthy."

Even McCarthy himself admitted to being "slightly relieved" but he insisted that "it's not going to be easy".

When it comes to the match-up against Switzerland, the new Ireland manager will be out for some retribution.

"I didn't lose too many competitive games at home and that was the last one so it was a disappointing way to leave, but it gives me a chance of revenge, doesn't it?" he said.

Reacting to the draw, Irish international Shane Duffy said: "New era, new campaign. Let's go."

Ireland supporters were happy with the draw, particularly after avoiding Group C.

However, Dave Byrne of supporters group You Boys in Green warned there is the potential of a banana skin in Georgia - who took points off Ireland during the recent World Cup qualification campaign.

"It was looking really good until we got Georgia, particularly after being initially drawn against the Netherlands and Germany," he said.

"From a football point of view there's no reason why we can't go for second and settle for third.

"But Georgia will be pushing for third too."

Familiarity

Asked about the visit to Tbilisi for the away tie, he said the long journeys are par for the course during qualification - with one lengthy trip to be expected.

"There's always one of those teams in every group," Mr Byrne said.

But with Ireland having played in Tbilisi a number of times over the past 20 years, it won't be too taxing.

"Fans are well accustomed to getting there so they know which routes to take," he said.

With Ireland having faced all four opponents on several occasions, the excitement of a new European city is out the window.

"I always look forward to going to a country that we haven't been to, we've been to all of these places before," he added.

Irish Independent

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