Ireland U-21 team forced to take five flights for Armenia qualifier due to FAI finances
The FAI's financial crisis has forced Ireland's U-21s to take five scheduled flights for their upcoming pair of Euro qualifiers, a situation manager Stephen Kenny believes is detrimental to his preparations.
Kenny's table-toppers visit Armenia next Thursday before a swift turnaround for the meeting with second seeds Sweden at Tallaght Stadium on November 19.
The 22-man squad and staff must navigate a three-leg journey to Yerevan and return on the circuitous route via Moscow.
Several European U-21 teams such as England and Germany are afforded direct charter planes for long treks but the FAI's current problems rule that option out.
Despite the organisation reporting a turnover of €50m for 2017, the estimated outlay of €100,000 for the plane hire is a non-runner.
Mick McCarthy's senior squad travel to all away games by private jet and Kenny became accustomed to that mode for European assignments in his previous role as Dundalk manager.
Accounts for 2018, and an amended version for 2017, are due to be furnished to FAI delegates this month, outlining the extent of their financial woes. A credit facility provided by UEFA of up to €15m is funding the organisation.
Legal and accounting charges associated with ongoing reports and audits have added multi-millions to their cost base.
"Resources are very, very tight within the association - particularly at U-21 level," said Kenny yesterday when naming his squad for the double-header.
"We're consistently reminded of that. The reality is that chartering a plane would blow the whole year's budget. I'm used to going direct. With Dundalk, we'd have always chartered a flight.
"Getting three flights out to Armenia and two back before playing Sweden is not good preparation; it's not good at all."
Replicating the senior squad’s routine of flying direct two days before a fixture would have enabled Kenny to get two days of preparatory work done in Dublin.
He said: “It’s a busy window for us because we go London, Kiev, Yerevan. That’s 10 hours of travelling on Monday so we can’t train that day.
“There won’t be much time to prepare for the Thursday game once we get over there. I think it’s a big challenge for us.”
Another challenge is the loss of Troy Parrott to the senior squad and injury-enforced absences of Darragh Leahy and Jonathan Afolabi.
Ever-presents Lee O’Connor and skipper Jayson Molumby are suspended for the Armenia test.
“We’ll be without six players from the team that beat Sweden in September,” lamented Kenny, due to succeed McCarthy next summer.