Wednesday 12 December 2018

FAI confident of securing more tickets for Gibraltar qualifier

Sadlier: On the move. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sadlier: On the move. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Demand is still expected to outstrip the supply of tickets available to Irish fans in Gibraltar after the FAI confirmed an enhanced tranche of 500 has been sourced for the opening Euro 2020 qualifier between the nations in March.

The home side's Victoria Stadium has a capacity of just 2,300, meaning the five per cent mandatory and five per cent discretionary allocations for travelling support posed major challenges for a fanbase intent on being present for Mick McCarthy's first game back at the helm.

Negotiations between the federations since the draw in Dublin on Sunday yielded early results and, while the FAI remain confident of securing more tickets, interest by the locals could prove problematic.

The minnows filled most of the venue for Gibraltar's games during the recent Nations League campaign and uptake of tickets for their Euros opener should be brisk.

With the warm climate and easy access via Spain, the Saturday match will also prove popular with Irish fans. Despite the team being already relegated from the Nations League last month, over 800 supporters trekked to watch them in Denmark.

Meanwhile, Kieran Sadlier is in line to complete a move to Doncaster Rovers in the coming days. The League One side's manager Grant McCann was in Dublin last month to watch the attacker play his last game for Cork City in the FAI Cup final and talks are understood to have reached a successful conclusion for the free agent. Cork, however, will receive a transfer fee for Sean McLoughlin should Rovers increase their bid for the young defender, who has a year to run on his contract.

Another former Cork player, goalkeeper Peter Cherrie, has been recruited by Derry City as new manager Declan Devine starts his rebuilding mission. Former Shamrock Rovers defender Ally Gilchrist and Ciarán Coll from neighbours Finn Harps have arrived, while Jamie McDonagh has chosen to stick around. Several others from last season's squad, including Shamrock Rovers recruit Aaron McEneff, departed at the end of a disappointing year.

Another boss facing an overhaul, Liam Buckley, has attracted Bermuda captain Dante Leverock to Sligo Rovers. The centre-back, raised in England and part of fellow Bermudian Sean Goater's squad at Ilkeston last year, was last with Estonian club Narva Trans. John Russell has returned to the club as player-coach, assisting the manager he helped win the Premier Division title for St Patrick's Athletic in 2013.

Elsewhere, Ireland are top seeds in today's draw for the elite qualifiers of the U-19 European Championships. This age-group, with only seven nations qualifying to join the hosts Armenia at the finals next July, is the most difficult to negotiate but Ireland will be helped by avoiding the likes of Germany, Spain, Portugal and France.

They could still, however, be grouped with third seeds England or Belgium from the fourth pot of countries.

The elite group will be contested in March on a round-robin basis with only the top team advancing to the showpiece. Ireland last qualified in 2011 with a team featuring Jeff Hendrick and John Egan.

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