At the end of an atrocious year for the Irish football team, results will be off the agenda for a couple of hours at least when Dublin hosts the Euro 2020 draw tomorrow.
The great and the good of Uefa, along with managers of the 55 nations, some special guests and over 500 media personnel, are in town to see the latest show of glitz, glam and pageantry from the European governing body.
The proceedings, including plenty of pomp, will last for just under an hour but the draw is far from straightforward. Here we simplify the background and mechanics.
Former Uefa President Michel Platini, before incurring his ban for receiving a corrupt payment from fellow disgraced official Sepp Blatter, pushed for a pan-European format to celebrate 60 years of the competition, whereby multiple countries would host the month-long showpiece.
Initially, Dublin was one of 13 cities to be granted hosting right but that’s reduced to 12 following the withdrawal of Brussels.
John Delaney also convinced his fellow blazers in Uefa that the Irish capital city’s Convention Centre would be a worthy venue for the draw.
The national broadcaster will carry live coverage on RTÉ2 television from 10.45am tomorrow and it is available of various online platforms.
Dance duo Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding will open the show by performing ‘Up and Over it’ before special guests Robbie Keane, Ronnie Whelan, and former Portugal internationals Nuno Gomes and Victor Baia are introduced.
If you fancy staying in bed a bit longer, the actual draw is scheduled for 11.22am, due to last 33 minutes.
Due to our poor showing in the inaugural Nations League, picking up two points from 12, relegation has dropped Ireland into Pot 3. The 10 groups will be split evenly between five pools of five (first seeds being those who finished top in the Nations League and Belgium) and five pools of six nations.
Pot 1: Switzerland, Portugal, Holland, England, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Poland.
Pot 2: Germany, Iceland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ukraine, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic.
Pot 3: Slovakia, Turkey, Ireland , Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland, Bulgaria, Israel.
Pot 4: Hungary, Romania, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Georgia.
Pot 5: Macedonia, Kosovo, Belarus, Luxembourg, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Gibraltar, Faroe Islands.
Pot 6: Latvia, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Malta, San Marino.
As Uefa decree that no more than two of the hosting countries can share the same group, the nightmare draw of Spain and Germany is a non-starter.
Germany, having been relegated in their Nations League campaign and bombed at the World Cup, are the surprise presence in the second pot and, therefore, the one to avoid.
A group with Spain, France, Hungary, Kosovo and Latvia is arguably the worst-case scenario.
On the other hand, Mick McCarthy would probably take something like Poland, Iceland, Lithuania, Faroe Islands and San Marino.
The matchdays have been pre-ordained, with all 10 internationals dates assigned to qualifiers if Ireland are in one of the six-nation groups. Games kick off next March, concluding in November, with the top two finishers in each group qualifying.
By tomorrow night.
Centralised television rights have handed control of fixture planning to broadcasters and they’ll schedule the times and dates once the sequence of fixtures is decided by a random computer program.
There are some travel restrictions for countries with harsh climates but let’s cross that bridge if it comes to it.
No. Four of the 24 berths at the finals will be left reserved for those emerging from the Nations League play-offs in March 2020.
It seems inevitable Ireland will clinch a play-off, primarily resulting from countries above us getting there via the mainstream method.
Put simply, once 15 or more of the 22 teams ahead of Ireland in the final places of the Nations League have qualified, Ireland snare a play-off. That will be a one-off semi-final, likely away from home, and a potential final shootout for a last-gasp ticket into the tournament.