Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fans gear up for Nations Cup Dublin trips

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland fans already know exactly where their team will be playing in February and May.

And the good news for the Green and White Army is that they won’t have to trawl through numerous websites looking for flights to get them there.

Nigel Worthington’s side are heading to Dublin after the dates and sponsorship for the new Carling Nations Cup were announced yesterday at the new Aviva Stadium, where all the games in the 2011 competition will be played.

Northern Ireland fans also know their opponents, with matches against Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland in the new tournament, which will be played on a league basis, rather than with semi-finals and a final as was first mooted.

It will be the all-Ireland battle that will capture the imagination of the local fans the most.

It is now 11 years since Danny Griffin scored Northern Ireland’s winner in the last meeting of the teams at the old Lansdowne Road.

The first games will be played on February 8 and 9 next year, with teams heading back to Dublin for the remaining matches which will be played in the week beginning Monday, May 23.

“This is going to be a great tournament for all four Associations and it is one that we are certain the players and fans will really get excited about,” said Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson.

“These are the sort of games that bring all the fans together to enjoy a feast of football which will be right on our own doorstep.”

Northern Ireland’s most capped player, goalkeeper Pat Jennings, kept two clean sheets against the Republic in qualification for the 1980 European Championships.

He was at yesterday’s launch and said: “The Carling Nations Cup is a wonderful idea and a welcome addition to the international footballing calendar, harking back to the good old days of the Home Internationals, which were always very popular with local football fans.

“I’m sure fans of all four competing teams will be excited at the prospect of playing each other in this fantastic new stadium.”

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