Mick McCarthy talks to the media ahead of tomorrow night's Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McCarthy calls on Irish fans to back the team amid rumours of in-game protests against FAI

Reports claim some Irish fans intend to throw tennis balls on the pitch tomorrow night.

MICK MCARTHY HAS called on Irish fans to get behind the team amid rumours that tomorrow’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium will be interrupted by protests against John Delaney and the FAI. 

The Times Ireland today reports that some Irish fans intend to throw tennis balls on the pitch during tomorrow’s game to express their anger with how the game is run in Ireland, with some fans calling for a boycott of the fixture. 

There were at least two banners critical of John Delaney evident among the Irish fans during Saturday’s game with Gibraltar. 

“I’ve been at games, I’ve been at Charlton when people have done it”, said McCarthy at his pre-match press conference, when asked for his opinion on the protests.

“It’s not going to help us play any better, that’s for sure. So I hope that’s not the case, try and overlook that.

“They [the fans] are coming to watch a football match and they want us to win, and to give us the best chance is by getting behind us and not having any outside influences affecting that.

“I can’t do anything about it, maybe I’ll take a tennis racket with me.” 

I’m not saying it because I’m back in the job, but our fans are fabulous. I want them to come and support the team and if they have to demonstrate about anything, do it somewhere else another time.

“We don’t want it to affect the performance.

“Not that it is affecting the preparation, by the way.” 

McCarthy was unwilling to discuss the issue further, although did joke “that’s going to be a hell of a title for his door, he’ll have to have some wide door” when the first reference was made to John Delaney’s new role as the FAI’s new Executive Vice-President. 

On Saturday evening, soon after the full-time whistle blew on Ireland’s game with Gibraltar, the FAI circulated a statement to announce that John Delaney had stepped aside as CEO and assumed this new role, as was recommended by an external audit of the FAI’s governance structure. The review was commissioned by the FAI in February. 

The statement, however, did not say that the restructuring was motivated in any way by the controversy that has engulfed Delaney in the last week, which began with a Sunday Times story which revealed that Delaney had paid a personal cheque worth €100,000 to his employers in April 2017.

The FAI clarified that the payment was a “bridging loan” to cover a short-term cash problem, and was repaid to Delaney in full in June 2017. 

The players, meanwhile will be unaffected by any in-game protest according to their goalkeeper, regardless of whether they involve tennis balls or otherwise. 

“Play the game and if it happens, it happens”, said Darren Randolph. “Throw them back.”

Elsewhere, there are uncertainties regarding Shane Duffy’s involvement in tomorrow’s game. The defender didn’t train with the Irish squad today, and McCarthy confirmed he has returned from Gibraltar with a sore ankle. 

“Shane has a sore ankle. We’ve left him out today. He’s going to have a precautionary scan to see if there is anything serious, I don’t think there will be.

“We are hopeful he will be okay but he might not be.” / YouTube

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