Yet another Irish soccer away day is on the cards for fans in March 2020. The Irish national team are set to play Slovakia on March 26th in the capital city of Bratislava. A win in this semi final play off would see the Irish team progress to the final to play either Northern Ireland or Bosnia Herzegovina away from home for a place at Euro 2020 next summer. Getting to Slovakia will be a priority for many Irish supporters.
When it comes to away games, the Irish fans will do all they can to make sure they get there. Whether it is planes, trains or automobiles the Irish faithful will always find a way to make it to their destination. It just goes to show how passionate our fans are and no wonder they have a good reputation amongst other nations. Win, lose or draw the Irish fans will always stick by their team. They make their voices heard wherever they go and there is never any trouble when they go abroad. Testimony to this, the Republic of Ireland supporters received an outstanding contribution award for their support at Euro 2016 and were also presented a special award in recognition of their great behaviour at Euro 2012. If the national team make it to Euro 2020, I am sure the Irish fans will make themselves seen and heard once again.
As an Irish fan that travels to away games, I for one can vouch that the experience is unforgettable. As the Irish descend upon an away city, the locals can hear the Irish fans chanting and having the “craic” in the pubs the city has to offer. There is never any concern over the need to segregate to avoid trouble as it is the norm to see the visiting Irish fans socialising with the host nation’s supporters. It can be frustrating at times following the Boys in Green as results don’t always go our way but when the Irish team delivers a result for the Irish fans, it makes all the effort involved in travelling for the away games worthwhile. Personally, I experienced that elation on away trips to Bosnia (2015), Austria (2016) and Wales (2017) when Ireland achieved results against the odds. There is something unique about being with other passionate Irish fans willing that ball into the opposition’s net. Supporting your country is an experience of agony and ecstasy in its purest form, but I wouldn’t change the ups and downs we are called on to endure.
The current financial controversy surrounding the FAI is a topic of conversation amongst all Irish supporters. Most fans are in a state of shock and anger at what has been revealed in the past week regarding the FAI audit and the €55 million debt. Even though feelings may be running high at the moment about the inner workings of the FAI, this wont stop the most passionate fans from continuing to travel abroad for away games. It was estimated earlier this year that the season ticket sales would generate €12 million in revenue going towards servicing stadium loans. The FAI stated at the time that they intended to clear the Aviva Stadium debt of €28 million by the end of 2020. Giving the mismanagement of funds, it will be interesting to see if season ticket sales go up or down next year. While fans may feel let down by the organistaion, they are holding on to the hope of qualifying for Euro 2020 and optimistic about the potential of Stephen Kenny’s tenure starting later next year. In addition, the promise of the younger generation of Irish players like Aaron Connolly and Troy Parrot, who are getting their chance in the Premier League, will give hope to the Irish fans during this dark and gloomy time. This optimism will hopefully give Irish fans many more memorable home and away days in the future.
On the topic of getting to Slovakia, it seems direct flights wont be an option for many fans due to the cost. Options are available via Vienna which involves making a train journey of approximately an hour to get to the city of Bratislava. I am sure Irish supporters are in midst of organising the most affordable way of getting to this crucial game. If the Irish team get the result they need, a trip to Bosnia or Belfast is on the cards. There will be a scramble for tickets, I’m certain, but many will travel with or without tickets just to savour the atmosphere.