Republic's players told to fly economy class
It's a good job for the FAI that Roy Keane's no longer involved.
Football officials were caught up in an embarrassing scenario yesterday when seven international stars were allocated seats in economy class for the five-hour flight to Cyprus because there was no room available in first class.
The charter plane booked for the official trip from Dublin to Larnaca did not have a business class area big enough to accommodate the entire squad and management. Only 22 places were available.
So when Stephen Hunt, Kevin Doyle, Aiden McGeady, Liam Miller, Andy Keogh, Paul McShane and Shane Long got on board they learned they had lost out in the lottery and found themselves in the less spacious seats generally reserved for FAI officials, guests, media and a small number of supporters.
Giovanni Trapattoni and his assistants were accommodated in first class. although the general bemusement at the situation resulted in a swapping of seats before take-off -- Liam Brady and goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly switching with Doyle and McShane respectively.
However, the other five spent the journey in the less comfortable environment. Both Doyle and McShane are on the comeback trail from injury problems.
The incident will bring back pre-Saipan memories for the elder members of the squad. For it was after a trip to Cyprus eight years ago that Roy Keane first raised the longstanding issue of players being seated in economy while FAI officials enjoyed the luxury ahead of them.
Eventually, his complaints resulted in a role reversal which allowed the squad to enjoy maximum leg room to stretch their muscles when travelling in the days before important matches.
"We were aware of the problem beforehand. The seats in economy class had a 34-inch pitch, which is first class in some airlines," said an FAI spokesman.
"The taller players sat at the front, and the smaller players sat at the back and they were happy to do so."