Focus must now turn to getting supporters back to domestic matches in a safe manner
It’s decision day for Ireland’s status as European Championships co-hosts but it’s safe to say that the nation is not holding its breath.
All the vibes have suggested that bad news is imminent, although UEFA have come through such a strange week that firm predictions on anything are dangerous.
If, as expected, the four games in Dublin are moved elsewhere due to an inability to provide guarantees around attendances, it will be disappointing for the local organisers that have put a lot of time and effort into the idea. You have to be sensitive towards their stresses and frustrations.
But tears are unlikely to be shed elsewhere, with all due respect to the large Polish community in Ireland that might be holding out hope of seeing their team play a major tournament on their doorstep.
This was the Irish vision in 2014 when John Delaney was front and centre to the announcement that Dublin would be one of 12 co-hosts for the 2020 competition.
Tournament traditionalists who feel a major competition should be a festival bringing together a range of nationalities in one hub hated a concept that was a Michel Platini brainchild.
Yet the alternative view is that it provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an Irish team to play a fixture with iconic potential on their own patch. Imagine a Giants Stadium or a Stuttgart or a Lille moment taking place just down the road.
That dream died when October’s penalty shoot-out in Bratislava ended in heartbreak but even then there was already a lingering sense that the tournament rescheduled for this summer would likely be a closed-doors affair or at best a very limited and sanitised gathering.
You can be sure that if Ireland had qualified from their group under Mick McCarthy or from the play-offs via Stephen Kenny that the political classes here would be seeking capital by making promises about the summer.
But in recent weeks we’ve seen Micheál Martin latch onto the reheated World Cup 2030 bid story and even send out concerned tweets about the European Super League, nonsense posturing that drew deserved scorn from Irish football fans.
The Euros has got an airing at various junctures and, to be fair, Government have apparently tried to keep the door open in any discussions with the FAI but there would be more urgency if there was a sense that enough people actually cared about the outcome.
Let’s be honest, though. The absence of live sport has left a major void in the lives of matchgoers around the country, whatever their passion may be.
Without meaning to veer into pandemic politics, there is a strong argument in favour of letting spectators into open air grounds right now but in the discourse from the authorities we’ve had sporadic soundings that it’s viewed in certain quarters in the same terms as indoor pubs opening.
That has changed with talk of test events with Leinster leading the way on that and Bohemians chief operating officer Daniel Lambert speaking on the LOI Central podcast this week about the work they are doing at Dalymount, including an experiment with a company that is trialling a system that includes a canine covid detection unit on top of a temperature check.
“If anybody failed either of those, there was rapid latent flow testing that takes eight minutes,” he explained. “I think there will be an interim period where you’ll have some kind of rapid testing and it’s up to all clubs to be prepared for that.”
Driving these initiatives in all codes is more important from an Irish perspective than saving the Euros, especially as the natural starting point for matches will be home fans only to discourage travel.
If a plan was passed to allow even an extremely limited amount of supporters into the Aviva then it would open up the possibility of movement within the country and maybe even across borders and that’s not really a healthy scenario for a starting point.
With the general public craving the return of inter-county travel and an increased speed of vaccinations and sports fans wondering when they might see their team of choice again, it’s hard to see how any national cheer could be derived from confirmation that fixtures featuring Poland, Sweden and Slovakia are going ahead.
If anything, it would more likely raise probing questions about where real priorities lie.
Maybe there’s a loss of prestige and honour if it goes but that’s a questionable description of an award crafted by Platini and partially delivered by Delaney. There’s much more important things to be focused on.