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George Bryne: Far-flung nations a nightmare draw for Green Army

Normally one of the joys of being a football fan is the magic and anticipation of 'the draw', that moment when everything is possible and the fate of your team is in the laps of the Gods.

When the balls are in the hat -- or, as is more often the case these days, a few big glass bowls -- you never know just how things are going to pan out and the mind can race away in all sorts of reverie.

It's one thing letting your mind plays tricks when it comes to club football, when one is torn between wanting a home tie against deadly local rivals or preferring a nice awayday to some crowd of hopeful cloggers, but with international football it's a different bag of badgers entirely.

Over the past week there had been lots of speculation about what kind of draw lay ahead for Ireland to qualify for Poland and Ukraine in 2012. Plenty of print was devoted to 'dream draws' and 'worst case scenarios' while we all knew that those geniuses in the FAI were saying novenas in the hope of pulling one of the really big boys and making serious money at the Aviva over the next two years.

Well, I have to say that for the first time in at least three decades I was actually fast asleep when the balls were pulled from the bowl and by God I'm glad I was away with the gambolling sheep when Ireland's schedule unfolded.

From a footballing point of view, a series of matches against Russia, Slovakia, FYR Macedonia, Armenia and Andorra isn't exactly the worst and you'd have to fancy our chances of coming at least second should everything pan out, but from a fan's perspective these are nightmare fixtures.

Even if you reckoned that the team's chances were scuppered from the off there's always the consolation of spending a few days somewhere nice.

For example, we've played Portugal a couple of times in the past decade and even if you're being hammered 3-0 in a downpour of biblical proportions, there's always the consolation that afterwards you'll be having several civilised scoops in the congenial surroundings of Lisbon's Barrio Alto, but there's nothing too appealing about this little lot.

With the exception of Andorra, which means a jolly in Barcelona and a short hop into the Pyrenees, this isn't what the Green Army would class as an ideal line-up of travel destinations.

Moscow is expensive, corrupt and bloody dangerous, as Ireland fans found out when they were attacked for no reason in various hotel bars the last time we drew the Russians, and the rule of thumb which states that countries which end in the letter 'A' or 'An' are best avoided in football certainly applies here.

Mercifully we've managed to avoid the worst of the latter countries, all those former Soviet republics which contain the words 'istan' and should be playing in bloody Asia, but Armenia isn't exactly a doddle, being 4,000km away and costing a fortune to get there. I'm sure there'll be plenty of loyal Green Army footsoldiers who'll relish the prospect of travelling across Eastern Europe and wearing their badges of honour proudly but I certainly wouldn't be too keen to join them.

This will be an arduous and expensive campaign and while I'd be reasonably confident about our prospects on the field, off it is another matter entirely.

Still, can you only imagine what John Delaney's face must have been like when these names were being drawn?

I'd love to have been awake just to have seen that.


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