Slovakia clash could be played behind closed doors

Ireland’s Euro play-off against Slovakia on March 26 could be contested behind closed doors or moved away from Bratislava due to the Coronavirus.
Slovakia clash could be played behind closed doors
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, with assistant coach Terry Connor in attendance ahead of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, right, with assistant coach Terry Connor in attendance ahead of the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division match between Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Ireland’s Euro play-off against Slovakia on March 26 could be contested behind closed doors or moved away from Bratislava due to the Coronavirus.

Uefa’s high-level officials yesterday discussed the pressing issue of the worldwide epidemic during a meeting of their executive committee held in Amsterdam.

Uppermost among their concerns were the eight upcoming 12 Euro play-off matches, which Ireland could feature in two of.

As it stands, Mick McCarthy’s side are due to travel to the Slovakian capital on Tuesday, March 24 but they may do so without their fans.

Playing matches behind closed doors is one of the measures being considered in the face of the virus spreading across Europe.

Should Ireland progress from the semi-final, they would meet the victor from the other tie from Pot B between Bosnia Herzegovina and Northern Ireland for a place at the finals. Ireland would have home advantage for two of their group games at the showpiece.

Uefa’s hierarchy insist they will be guided by advice from the home country but are also taking counsel from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Meanwhile, Ireland are set to play friendlies against Turkey and Luxembourg in early June whether or not they qualify for the Euros.

With Lansdowne Road unavailable due to Uefa taking ownership for the Euro matches, the FAI have had to arrange their warm-up matches in Austria and Limerick.

Mick McCarthy, if he navigates Ireland through a couple of play-offs later this month, will have his next match against yet to be named opposition on June 1.

Three days later, Ireland will meet Turkey as part of their stay in Austria before returning home to meet Luxembourg at Musgrave Park on June 9.

McCarthy, meanwhile, will be present at today’s Uefa Nations League draw despite him departing before the matches commence.

A top-two finish by Stephen Kenny in his first senior campaign at the helm will keep Ireland in with a shout of reaching the 2022 World Cup.

Uefa’s executive committee agreed in December on the qualification format for the showpiece in Qatar — with two play-off spots also allocated through the Nations League.

Whereas in the last campaign for the 2018 World Cup when Ireland were almost the sole runner-up across the nine groups to miss out on play-off, this version will ensure every second-placed team stays involved.

However, similar to the Euro play-offs next March, teams have to hurdle a semi-final and final to seal their places at the tournament.

Overall, there will be 10 groups, with matches taking place between March and November 2021.

For today’s Nations League draw, which starts at 6pm, Ireland were placed in Pot 3 of League B, alongside Slovakia, Turkey and Northern Ireland based on ranking.

They will be part of a four-team group with the following possibilities:

Pot 1: Russia, Austria, Wales, Czech Republic.

Pot 2: Scotland, Norway, Serbia, Finland.

Pot 4: Bulgaria, Israel, Hungary and Romania.

The six games will be played between September and November with promotion and relegation applying.

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