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Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy not distracted by FAI controversy

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is not fazed by FAI protests
From Brendan Crossan in Abbotstown

2020 European Qualifying Group D: Republic of Ireland v Georgia (Tonight, Lansdowne Road, 7.45pm)

WITH the prospect of tennis balls raining onto the pitch at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium tonight as a supporters' protest against the FAI board, Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy joked that he may bring a tennis racket.

Initially, the Republic of Ireland manager tried to make light of the on-going controversy surrounding John Delaney – removed as the Association’s chief executive last weekend and promptly installed as the new executive vice-president – after it emerged he provided his employers with an undeclared €100,000 bridging loan in 2017 and also had his €3,000 monthly rent paid by the FAI since 2016.

McCarthy was forced to answer questions about the perceived distraction that the FAI controversy was causing his team ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia tonight.

“Maybe I’ll bring a tennis racket,” McCarthy said of the mooted tennis ball protest.

“It’s not going to help us play any better, that’s for sure.

“I hope it’s not the case. They want us to win and give us the best chance and that’s getting behind us. But I can’t do anything about it.

“They are the best fans, they are fabulous and I’d like them to support the team. If they have to demonstrate then I’d like if they do it somewhere else at another time.”

McCarthy, who is hoping central defender Shane Duffy will overcome an ankle knock he sustained against Gibraltar to retain his place against Georgia tonight, added: “We’re coming to play a game and that’s my issue. I don’t get involved in things I can’t affect and this is one of them.

“The only thing I can affect is our performance in the game and pinning everything down and if we do that, then people will have a better feeling about the team and that is all I want. We had great feeling in ’88, ‘’90, ‘94, 2002 and the mood is great when the fans are behind us.”

Georgia, ranked 91st in the Fifa rankings, have always caused the Republic problems in their eight previous meetings over the last 16 years - but they have yet to record a victory over the green army.

The Irish are coming off a scrappy 1-0 win over Group D minnows Gibraltar while Georgia suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Switzerland last weekend.

McCarthy is aiming for “a fast, attacking, aggressive Irish performance” in the hope of giving themselves every chance of pushing for Euro 2020 qualification ahead of June’s double header against Denmark (a) and Gibraltar (h).

“Georgia will be difficult to play against but I will take a win however it comes,” said the Republic manager. “The object for me, with seven games to go, is to qualify for the Euros.”

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