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Monday 18 December 2017

Ireland net result as FAI loses out

Costly tickets keep fans at home

Jason O'Brien at Lansdowne Road

JOHN Delaney is all about putting bums on seats at the moment, and understandably so.

And so he must have winced when Andorra was confirmed as the opposition for the first competitive game at the redeveloped Lansdowne Road.

With their virtually non-existent travelling support and a lack of a competitive edge, the tiny nation in the Pyrenees was never likely to help dig the FAI man out of the hole he finds himself in.

Nonetheless, the bleak reality played out at 7.45 last night made for grim viewing -- for those who showed up, for those who watched at home and especially for the FAI which boasted just last year there would be no tickets on general sale for games at the stadium.

"I heard beforehand that there were 3,000 unsold tickets in the premium level but from a cursory glance I'd say you could double that," Liam Cummins from Dartry in Dublin said.

"Three-quarters of the corporate boxes were empty as well. I know it's only Andorra but there's been a good start to the campaign and it's a lovely new stadium. So it must be pricing."

Mr Cummins had paid €65 for his ticket and €10 for his son as a schoolboy.

"I've just paid €150 for three tickets for me and my two sons," a furious father -- who didn't wish to be named because of connections to the FAI -- told the Irish Independent.

"It's not even close to a sell-out, and yet I'm only left with a fiver to buy a bit of grub for the three of us. I won't be coming again."

Still, it could be worse: there were presumably some in the crowd last night who shelled out €32,000 for a 'Vantage Club' 10-year seat. Safe to assume there are no Andorrans among that lot. There were few if any away fans here, but as their side was on a run of 25 defeats in a row that is hardly surprising.

It meant Kevin Kilbane disappointed very few in the ground when he headed in the opener after 13 minutes, or when Kevin Doyle added a wonderful second 20 minutes later.

But it also meant an eerie silence when Andorra only went and got one themselves before half time.

The second-half was a pretty drab affair, although Robbie Keane finally rediscovered the goal and the stadium announcer also got a cheer when telling us the official attendance was 40,283. Of course, there are more important things to life than football and it would be churlish not to give the FAI credit where it's due.

Amongst the Irish fans who did turn up last night was Sean Foran from Wexford, whose brother Luke (28) collapsed and died nine years ago while training with his local club. "We got a family ticket from the FAI a couple of weeks ago. It was a nice touch from the FAI; they have looked after us in the past."

And Mr Delaney will be hoping for better times in the future, with the visit of Russia next month likely to finally provide the association with its first 50,000 sell-out.

"That's going to be huge," said Kevin McDermott from Stepaside. "A 3-1 win over Andorra will hardly see us lose the run of ourselves but it will be full that night."

Getting those bums on seats is one thing. Keeping them there for the next 10 years is another matter entirely.

match report, See Sport

Irish Independent

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