The Rebel county is set to give the boys in green a huge Euro 2016 send-off at tonight’s international friendly against Belarus in Turner’s Cross.
With just 10 days to tournament kick-off, thousands of fans are expected to pack the home of Cork football and watch Ireland soccer manager Martin O’Neill put his team through their paces in what is a key step-up in the squad’s final preparations.
The match comes on day two of the Irish squad’s five-day training camp at the Fota Island Resort in East Cork, where they are using the resort’s training and recovery facilities, including its two state-of-the-art pitches, gym, physiotherapy facilities, swimming and hydrotherapy pools.
Security around the squad is tight with access restricted to a handful of accredited journalists only.
The Euros kick off in Paris on Friday week, with Ireland’s opener in group E against Sweden on Monday, June 13.
The Benhaffaf twins, Hassan and Hussein, who have started playing soccer, will lead the teams onto the pitch tonight, while Adi Roche, who has spearheaded humanitarian work in Belarus since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, will be honoured on the pitch before what will be the first meeting between O’Neill’s team, and Alyaksandr Khatskevich’s side, which is currently ranked 64th in the world.
Cork’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Chris O’Leary, promised to try and get an insight into the Belarusian team tactics during meetings today with the ambassador of Belarus, Sergei Aleinik.
“I’ll do my best — as long as it doesn’t cause a diplomatic incident,” Mr O’Leary joked.
Mr Aleinik will visit City Hall this morning, before both men attend an FAI lunch in the Clarion Hotel this afternoon and the match later.
Meanwhile, city bar Reardens will host the official FAI big send-off party from 6.30pm, with guests including Denis Irwin, Kevin Kilbane, Keith Andrews and Apres Match’s Barry Murphy, with Seo Linn performing the official FAI Euros anthem, ‘The Irish Roar’.
Over on Grand Parade, SoHo will unveil its new Carlsberg Locker Room experience — a themed stadium dressing room, complete with a bar, big screens, a grass floor and a tactics board — developed specially for the championships.
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