Saturday 14 December 2019

Ireland will face Northern Ireland or Bosnia away in Euro 2020 play-offs if they beat Slovakia following nightmare draw

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal
Mick McCarthy faces a long winter break before returning to action against Slovakia. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

The Republic of Ireland will be away for both games in the playoff route to the Euro 2020 finals after today's draw saw them denied a home draw for the playoff final.

It had already been confirmed that Ireland would play away to Slovakia, in a venue to be confirmed by next month, on March 26, in the semi-final, but there was a chance they could get a home tie for the final, should they progress. But a draw at UEFA HQ in Switzerland today handed the winners of the Bosnia-Northern Ireland tie home advantage for the playoff final, so it's Belfast or Zenica for Mick McCarthy's side if they do beat Slovakia.

That hands a number of logistical and possible security problems for the FAI as they face two away games in five days. Mick McCarthy's squad are likely to travel directly to Bosnia from Slovakia if the win the semi-final, though should Northern Ireland win their semi against the Bosnians, the Republic squad would be able to return to their Dublin base to prepare for the game in Belfast.

Fans keen to attend both legs of the playoff would also face a scramble in terms of flights and tickets if the Republic are off to Bosnia. With a capacity of just 18,000 at Windsor Park, supporters of the Republic will find tickets hard to source.

Speaking before today's draw, McCarthy said that home advantage could be a factor in both ties.

"It will be a difficult game, I have no doubt," he said of the Slovakia test in the semi-final.

"They were in Wales' group so I am sure I will be able to get info on them. It's a tough game, people have said to me, you'll be playing one of the poorer sides, one of the third teams in the group and I said yes, exactly like us, that's what we were, it's a level playing field except that they have the home tie.

"That has an impact on it, the venue, the crowd getting behind them, the fact that they feel happier at home and don't have to travel, that does has an impact and influence, whether it has such a big influence, we will see," he added.

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