Irish manager Mick McCarthy has urged fans not to emulate their tennis ball protests from the victory over Georgia in March, when they face Switzerland at the Aviva on Thursday night.
Some Ireland Fans brought tennis balls to the game and threw them onto the pitch towards the end of the first half of the game against Georgia in protest over the corporate governance issues plaguing the FAI.
The protest occurred moments before Ireland opened the scoring through a Conor Hourihane free-kick with the atmosphere reaching fever pitch for one of the most memorable five minute periods in recent Irish footballing history.
Since March, there has been no let-up in the controversies involving corporate governance in the association. And although there has been no talk of protests ahead of this game, the effect it had against Georgia could see fans attempt something similar on Thursday night.
On Wednesday morning at FAI HQ, McCarthy was quizzed on the potential for protest but outlined that he “hadn’t considered” any occurring. He explained that he would not be in favour of it – unless of course, he joked, it had the same effect it did before Hourihane’s free-kick.
“I haven’t considered it until you asked about it. Is there going to be one, do you know? I’m not going to urge them to protest against the game or anyone involved in the game.
“Unless it has the same impact it had the last time then they can bring what they want. But no I’d like to have a great evening and game that’s enjoyed by everyone and an evening that’s enjoyed by everyone.”
Potential protests aside, Ireland face a difficult task on Thursday evening when they come up against the top seeds in the group, Switzerland who are also currently ranked just outside the world’s top ten.
A win would put Ireland nine points clear of the Swiss in the group and would do wonders for their qualification chances, which makes the game the most significant of Mick’s reign so far.
McCarthy outlined that he has felt from the mood of the fans how big an occasion Thursday night will be but outlined that he hasn’t let it affect him or his players in the run-up to the game.
“I’ve noticed it with the fans but as a team we don’t go around talking about it. We’re all fully aware of how big it is.”
Ireland appear to have a fully fit squad from the 24-man panel McCarthy finalised over the weekend. Meanwhile, Switzerland will be missing one of their key men in Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri who pulled out of the squad last week to focus on club commitments.