Fans caught offside by travel costs

STEVE STAUNTON’S army of globetrotting fans face a bill of over €1,500 each for flights if they want to see their heroes in action in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

Staunton’s Ireland face their first crunch match - against Germany - on September 2 and already flights with airlines like Ryanair are over €200 from Dublin.

The green army then face the task of having to fly to the Mediterranean a month later to see their team take on Cyprus - with flights a cool €350 from Dublin.

Now travel agents specialising in sporting fixtures are expecting bumper interest for the Germany v Ireland fixture - the first real test of new boss Staunton.

Pat Dawson, from Cork-based Dawson Travel, said: “There will be a huge interest in this fixture - people will also be curious about the new manager and the management team.

“Like everything else, the more successful he is, the more people will want to go to the other games.

“There will be huge interest in the qualifiers especially as we did not quality for this year’s World Cup.”

The first qualifier of 2007 will be away at the small state of San Marino, the nearest airport to which is in Bologna, Italy.

No online prices were available yesterday for the date of the clash but Aer Lingus was quoting €112 for a return flight next month.

Travel agents also predict huge interest for the March 24 qualifier when Staunton’s men will take on their fellow Celts from Wales at Croke Park.

Four days later Ireland face Slovakia at Croke Park but will have to wait until September for the return leg in Bratislava - with flights costing around €123.

Already fans are being warned to beware of cheap flights.

Mr Dawson said: “Prices always go up for big sporting fixtures.

“You see flights to Liverpool for €59 return but the minute there’s a home game the price is €259.

“The airlines do it all the time.”

Fans aiming to go to the Slovakia away game might as well stay for the fixture against the neighbouring Czech Republic. It is in Prague just four days later.

Yesterday Czech Airlines was quoting €703 for a return flight to Prague from Cork. Seats with Aer Lingus were €178.

The last away qualifier is on November 17, 2007, against Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and it could be cheaper to sail.

Flights from Dublin to the Welsh capital were yesterday quoted at €74.40 with Ryanair, but the price could go up by the time the game comes around.

Similarly, the BMI website was listing €219 for a return from Cork.

If Staunton and Bobby Robson’s men go all the way and qualify then the fans face a further trip - including one to the most expensive country in Europe. The 2008 championships are being held in Austria and Switzerland over 22 days in June.

Sample prices of return flights for those all-important away Euro 2008 qualifiers:

Dublin to Frankfurt, Germany: €214.56

Dublin to Larnaca, Cyprus: €350

Dublin to Bologna (for San Marino): €112

Dublin to Bratislava, Slovakia: €123.60

Cork to Prague, Czech Republic: €703

Cork to Cardiff, Wales: €219.

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