Saturday 14 December 2019

'Let's get it on' - Mick McCarthy would relish All-Ireland decider but fans face ticket scramble

Rivals: Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy (right) and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal. Photo: UEFA via Sportsfile
Rivals: Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy (right) and Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal. Photo: UEFA via Sportsfile
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: UEFA via Getty Images

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Mick McCarthy says he would relish an all-Ireland, winner-takes-all battle in Belfast next year where the prize is a place at Euro 2020.

However, fans of the Republic will face the worst ticket famine in decades for a play-off final against Northern Ireland in Windsor Park. Under UEFA regulations, the IFA are only obliged to offer the FAI five per cent of the capacity, which would equate to just 925 away tickets.

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The Republic of Ireland, already destined to play away from home in the semi-final of their play-off against Slovakia, were yesterday drawn away again in the final, should they reach it, against the winners of the Bosnia-Northern Ireland tie. The FAI said they are "negotiating for more" than the standard 5pc with the Slovak FA for the semi-final on March 26, a game almost certain to be played in Bratislava. Only 7,900 fans attended Slovakia's last group game in Trnava, which was less than half of the stadium's capacity.

Slovakia are only obliged to give the FAI 1,125 tickets for away supporters but with at least 2,000 expected to travel, it's hoped more Irish fans can be accommodated.

"Slovakia have intimated the game will take place in Bratislava," said an FAI statement. "We have also opened talks with them on the allocation of tickets and will update our fans as soon as we can. We are guaranteed 5pc of the tickets but we are negotiating for more."

However, the IFA would face a backlash from their own fanbase if more tickets than necessary were offered to away supporters.

Ireland have managed just one win from their last seven away competitive fixtures. That sole victory arrived against Gibraltar, and now McCarthy's side need to find the form that sees them beat Slovakia away before negotiating the challenge of Northern Ireland or Bosnia.

"I'm not worried about it. If I start worrying about it now, what is the point? We'll hopefully have two games and, if we win the first in Slovakia, we'll fancy our chances of going anywhere and getting a result," said McCarthy.

The Republic's 1-1 draw in Belfast 26 years ago sent Jack Charlton's side to the World Cup, but McCarthy reckons that the prospective March 31 clash could be the most important north-south game ever.

"I can't think of another one that would have been bigger. Let's hope we can get it on," he said. "They've been a very good team and it would be an extremely difficult game. I hope we're in a final wherever it is."

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