Football/Soccer

Devlin confirmed for top role in Irish supporters' Confederation

Nolan Devlin (second from left) with other members of the Derryhirk Supporters' Club  
Andy Watters

CLIFTONVILLE supporter Nolan Devlin has been confirmed as the new PRO of the Confederation of Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters’ Clubs.

Dolan, a turnstile operator and well known volunteer at Solitude, is also secretary of the Derryhirk Republic of Ireland Supporters’ Club in Lurgan and took on his new voluntary role two weeks ago.

The Confederation of Republic of Ireland Soccer Supporters’ Clubs now has 1,100 members from Ireland, Europe and the USA, and Devlin hopes to improve the supporters’ lot by helping to deal with issues like sourcing tickets, travel to away games and the atmosphere at home fixtures. One obvious plus for his group is their relationship with FAI chairman John Delaney.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t like John, but he hasn’t done any harm to us, he’s always very good to us,” Devlin said.

“He’s liked and he’s loathed, but we get on well with him. He doesn’t discriminate between whether you’re a big [supporters’] club or a small club and I always found him very fair. He would meet us for a drink sometimes and he hasn’t got an ego. He’s a supporter.”

The Confederation has been running for two years now and Devlin says it is “going from strength to strength”.

“You need one voice,” he said, but he admits his group's relationship with the FAI (the Confederation was proposed by the FAI in 2013) has driven a wedge between them and the more militant You Boys in Green, which operates a fan forum and fanzine.

“They were invited to join at the start like everyone else was,” Devlin said.

“I think they thought they were too big to join up. There’s a bit of jealousy between them and us now because they feel we’re getting all the good deals off people like John Delaney. We’re a bit closer to the FAI than they are, they’re trying to create a bit of a hierarchy of supporters. We just develop what we have and there’s no distinction in my eyes between supporters.”

Devlin added: “It doesn’t matter whether you live in the north or the south, you’re just an Irish fan and that’s it,” and they have all had to endure a lacklustre Euro 2016 qualifying campaign under Martin O’Neill.

With four games left, the Republic are fourth in Group D and need favours from their rivals to have any chance of making it to France next summer.

“It’s hard to support the team at the minute, especially at the Aviva,” he said.

“We have a relationship with the Sandymount Hotel and we organise live music before the matches. That would be the Confederation base when we’re playing at home. There’s face-painting and music, but if the football’s not up to standard, it’s hard.

“We know we don’t have the players and, at times, Martin O’Neill stifles the players – he doesn’t give them a free reign to express themselves.

“We’ve underachieved in this qualifying campaign and, if we don’t finish at least third, it’ll be a big disappointment.”

Football/Soccer

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