Dublin's Euro dream arrives
FAI believe Euro 2020 will provide fringe benefits
THEY weren't quite dancing on the streets of Dublin as the news came through.
But confirmation that the city will get to part-host the European Championship finals in 2020 certainly brought smiles to a lot of faces in an Irish soccer scene which has suffered a number of blows in recent years - from the struggles of our clubs in Europe to the slide of the senior international side to an all-time low in the world rankings.
And news from UEFA HQ that Dublin will join 12 other cities (London, Munich, St Petersburg, Baku, Rome, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Budapest, Brussles and Glasgow) in jointly hosting Euro 2020 is a rare good-news story for a country where we can only watch and wonder how so-called minnows like Belarus, Cyprus and Slovenia can send teams to the Champions League, where we ask how the national team can lose 20,000 supporters in a decade.
The arrival of Euro 2020 in Dublin should at least put some bums on seats at Lansdowne Road (or the Dublin Arena in UEFA-speak, the FAI can call it what they like but there's no Aviva Stadium in UEFA's world) so the stadium, which has become more empty for Ireland matches as time goes on, will be full - especially if Ireland qualify (whether a Slovenia-Israel match will sell out is another matter).
First the logistics: Dublin will host three group games at Euro 2020 and one match in the knock-out phase. Ireland will not automatically qualify as co-hosts so the side will have to go through the qualification process, but the FAI have confirmed that if the Republic do qualify, at least two of the group-stage games would be played here.
Dublin and Glasgow will be linked in a geographical group for the early stages but it's not yet known where the competing teams will base themselves.
The fact that London was selected to host the semi-finals and final was a help, says FAI CEO John Delaney. "That meant that Wembley wouldn't be hosting a group so that really helped our case so we were the front runners among ourselves, Scotland and Wales," said Delaney.
"That was a bonus for us, once England got that it opened the field for us."
The selection process was a blow for cities like Stockholm and Cardiff, who really fancied their chances, and is a testament to a lot of work done behind the scenes, with the FAI paying tribute to the input of agencies like the Gardaí, the hotels federation, Aer Rianta etc.
"We were told that our technical bid was the third best of those submitted, which is very good to hear," added Delaney. "And hopefully we will see a spin-off.
"We have kids of 15 and 16 in Ireland today who could be playing in the matches in 2020, there is a goal for kids playing today to play in this tournament."
Cities like Athens know only too well that shiny new sports facilities can rapidly turn into a white elephant, but for Dublin the awarding of Euro 2020 is a legacy from the hosting of the Europa League final here.
Back then, we had the misfortune of two clubs qualifying from the same country (Portugal), a nation which was almost as poor as Ireland at the time and that final was something of damp squib.
But the prospect of tens of thousands of Dutch, Danish or Polish fans coming to Dublin would gladden hearts and fill coffers.