Brendan Graham reports from FAI HQ in the National Sports Campus
Ahead of Tuesday evening's crucial home qualifier against Georgia, Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has said that he would prefer that if fans are going to organise a John Delaney protest then the Aviva Stadium this week is not the place for it.
He noted at the pre-match press conference in FAI HQ on Monday that any disruption during the game certainly won’t help his side on the pitch.
Reports suggest that a certain section of the Republic of Ireland fan base are planning on disrupting the game by throwing tennis balls onto the pitch as a way of displaying their anger towards former FAI CEO and newly appointed FAI Executive Vice-President John Delaney.
“The protests won’t help us play any better, that’s for sure so I hope that’s not the case,” said McCarthy when asked about the potential protest.
“I can’t do anything about it unfortunately, what am I going to do, take a tennis racket with me? The fans have always been fabulous home and away for me. If they want to protest, I would prefer them to do it another time, in another place as we don’t want it to affect the performance.
“I don’t get involved with anything I cannot affect. What I can affect is how we prepare for the game and what we can do to ensure we try and put in a good performance and get a good result.
"If we do that, I think people will be feeling a lot better about the team and that’s all I want. The mood is great when the fans are all behind us and it’s my job to try and get that back."
Ireland’s last result against Georgia was a tricky 1-1 drawi back in September 2017 during the World Cup qualifying campaign, a game in which defender Shane Duffy scored within the first five minutes. Duffy is a doubt for Tuesday’s game as he sat out training on the eve of the match.
As recent results show they have enjoyed an impressive upturn in fortunes since that 1-1 draw in Tbilisi. The recent inaugural Nations League Campaign was without doubt a success for Georgia.
It has to be noted though that they were competing in League D and in a group with Latvia, Andorra and Kazakhstan but winning games builds confidence and momentum and they ended up finishing that group unbeaten with five wins from six group games. They conceded just twice.
With the side struggling for goals and performances, he will be looking for signs of improvement and a positive performance that can help build momentum for the summer when they face a tough trip to Copenhagen.
Six points from six by 9.30pm on Tuesday is exactly what Mick and his side are hoping for but once again he made sure to stress the point that a win is the most important and how his side gets it doesn’t matter.
A commanding and improved performance would be a welcome bonus but as McCarthy has said on more than one occasion since taking over the position for a second time, his remit is to ensure the team qualify and how that happens doesn’t matter.
“I will take a win however it comes. The objective for me with seven games to go now is to qualify so lets get behind the team and see how we get on from there.”
“When we are at home we have to take all of the advantages that we’ve got. We’ll have a good crowd behind us.
“We got three points (in Gibraltar), the same three points that we would have had even if the players had got more goals.
“We’ve tried to get Jeff (Hendrick) scoring goals and get him forward more and he’s got one on Saturday so that’s a little bit of an improvement and if we can get another bit of an improvement from Saturday I’d be delighted.