'It's money well invested' - FAI president Donal Conway says application to host Euro 2020 games justified
Ireland drawn with Spain, Sweden and Poland if they qualify for finals next summer
FAI President Donal Conway believes that the draw for Euro 2020 has justified the decision to pitch for a role in the competition, even if it transpires that Ireland miss out on a place in the tournament.
Mick McCarthy’s team need to win two away playoff ties in March to earn the chance to take on Poland, Sweden and Spain in next summer’s finals.
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Spain will play all three games in Bilbao, so the winner of Ireland’s League B playoff will face a pair of Dublin matches against Poland (June 15) and Sweden (June 19) before travelling to take on the Spaniards in the final game on (June 24) – on the same night the Poles and the Swedes lock horns in Ballsbridge.
Conway feels that the large Polish population in Ireland and the reputation of the Swedish travelling support will ensure that the tournament makes its mark on the area regardless of whether the locals are involved.
However, a kinder draw compared to the alternatives will fuel the belief that progression to the knockout stage would be attainable if Ireland get there.
McCarthy’s charges must win away to Slovakia in March before travelling to face the winners of Bosnia and Northern Ireland for a place in the tournament.
As co-hosts of the competition, the Irish delegation knew before proceedings kicked off in Bucharest that they would be in Group E along with Spain.
There were tougher options available than Poland and Sweden with prospective options France and Portugal sent into Group F along with Germany.
The highest profile match in the Irish capital is likely to be in the round of 16 with a meeting of England and either Germany, Portugal or France on the cards if Gareth Southgate's charges win their group.
England's group includes their World Cup conquerors Croatia, the Czech Republic and the League C playoff winners (Scotland, Israel, Serbia or Norway)
"I think that draw says that it's money well invested," said Conway.
"It does incentivise the whole thing. It regenerates and sets the whole thing off again, the journey to Euro 2020. I think the FAI will be very pleased with it.
"If you look at it from a hosting city perspective, of course we would love to be there but (it’s positive) with the Polish population in the Republic of Ireland and the Swedes will travel to Dublin in very significant numbers.
"Football wise, I'd let Mick speak for Mick in due course. Spain would be very formidable, I think we could compete with Sweden and Poland.
"We would look at it commercially and it’s an opportunity to bring the second biggest tournament in the world to Dublin and show off football."
The presence of Poland in the group is good news for supporters with tickets who may not wish to attend if McCarthy’s side fail.
Large numbers of Irish fans have already secured tickets for the Dublin fixtures through the lottery system.
There is an official resale function available for those who opt to hand their tickets back.
Either way, the Polish presence for two matches will ensure there’s a lively atmosphere around the stadium and that will be a relief to organisers who feared low profile games and the embarrassing prospect of empty seats should Ireland fall short.
From that perspective, the next best alternative to qualification for McCarthy’s team would ironically be that Northern Ireland makes it through because of the numbers they would bring.
"That would be what I’m driving at," said Conway, admitting that Poland was a particularly good outcome.
"If it were Northern Ireland (playing at the Aviva) or of it were the Republic of Ireland, it’s a huge focus on football, a huge way in selling the game."
The Polish delegation couldn’t disguise their satisfaction with coming to Dublin and they are likely to source a base camp in Ireland.
Their manager Jerzy Brzeczek said: "We know exactly how it looks in Ireland. There is a big Polish community there.
"We remember the matches we played there in the past, when the stadium was full of Polish fans.
"We are aware that we can end up playing against two host nations if Ireland get through but we will try to be as well prepared as we can and we know that Polish people in Ireland will be very interested by this."
Below is a full list of the Euro 2020 finals fixtures next summer.
Friday June 12
Group A - Turkey v Italy, 8pm, Rome
Saturday June 13
Group A - Wales v Switzerland, Baku
Group B - Denmark v Finland, Copenhagen
Group B - Belgium v Russia, St Petersburg
Sunday June 14
Group C - Holland v Ukraine, Amsterdam
Group C - Austria v Play-Off winner, Bucharest
Group D - England v Croatia, London
Monday June 15
Group D - Play-Off winner v Czech Republic, Glasgow
Group E - Spain v Sweden, Bilbao
Group E - Poland v Play-Off winner, Dublin
Tuesday June 16
Group F - Play-Off winner v Portugal, Budapest
Group F - France v Germany, Munich
Wednesday June 17
Group A - Turkey v Wales, Baku
Group A - Italy v Switzerland, Rome
Group B - Finland v Russia, St Petersburg
Thursday June 18
Group B - Denmark v Belgium, Copenhagen
Group C - Holland v Austria, Amsterdam
Group C - Ukraine v Play-Off winner, Bucharest
Friday June 19
Group D - Croatia v Czech Republic, Glasgow
Group D - England v Play-Off winner, London
Group E - Sweden v Play-Off winner, Dublin
Saturday June 20
Group E - Spain v Poland, Bilbao
Group F - Play-Off winner v France, Budapest
Group F - Portugal v Germany, Munich
Sunday June 21
Group A - Switzerland v Turkey, Baku
Group A - Italy v Wales, Rome
Monday June 22
Group B - Russia v Denmark, Copenhagen
Group B - Finland v Belgium, St Petersburg
Group C - Play-Off winner v Holland, Amsterdam
Group C - Ukraine v Austria, Bucharest
Tuesday June 23
Group D - Croatia v Play-Off winner, Glasgow
Group D - Czech Republic v England, London
Wednesday June 24
Group E - Play-Off winner v Spain, Bilbao
Group E - Sweden v Poland, Dublin
Group F - Portugal v France, Budapest
Group F - Germany v Play-Off winner, Munich
ROUND OF 16
Saturday June 27
Winner Group A v Runner-up Group C, London
Runner-up Group A v Runner-up Group B, Amsterdam
Sunday June 28
Winner Group B v Third Place Group A/D/E/F, Bilbao
Winner Group C v Third Place Group D/E/F, Munich
Monday June 29
Winner Group F v Third Place A/B/C, Bucharest
Runner-up Group D v Runner-up Group E, Copenhagen
Tuesday June 30
Winner Group E v Third Place A/B/C/D, Glasgow
Winner Group D v Runner-up Group F, Dublin
Friday July 3
Winner Game 41 v Winner Game 42, 5pm, St Petersburg
Winner Game 39 v Winner Game 37, 8pm, Munich
Saturday July 4
Winner Game 40 v Winner Game 38, 5pm, Baku
Winner Game 43 v Winner Game 44, 8pm, Rome
Tuesday July 7
Winner Game 45 v Winner Game 46, 8pm, London
Wednesday July 8
Winner Game 48 v Winner Game 47, 8pm, London
Sunday July 12
Winner Game 49 v Winner Game 50, 8pm, London.
*kick-off times not yet confirmed for all matches. Those that are have been listed, in BST.
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