'It could have cost us dearly' - Eamon Dunphy describes Irish fans' tennis ball protest as a 'silly gesture'
Former Republic of Ireland international Eamon Dunphy has described the tennis ball protest carried out by some Irish fans last night during the 1-0 win over Georgia as 'pointless'.
Some fans threw tennis balls on to the pitch as protests against outgoing Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney punctuated the game at regular intervals, but the atmosphere was largely positive as Ireland played with a genuine vigour for long periods.
Conor Hourihane's decisive 39th-minute strike came after a clean-up operation to remove the tennis balls from the pitch. Mick McCarthy and James McClean had urged supporters not to protest before the game.
Writing in his column in today's Irish Daily Star, Dunphy criticised the actions of Irish supporters who engaged in the protest.
"It should be pointed out that Hourihane's goal came after a long delay following a protest by some fans where tennis balls were thrown on to the pitch," he wrote.
"I understand the anger at the FAI and John Delaney but this was stupid an pointless.
"It could have cost Ireland dearly too as Georgia nearly equalised during the time added on for the protest.
"There was too much at stake last night for this kind of silly gesture.
"Think of the players and their bid to make the European Championship.
"That's what matters, and silly tennis ball protests shouldn't be putting that at risk.
"But that's only a footnote to what was a significant night for McCarthy and his players."