Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland fans have no concerns over lockout at the Aviva for Republic clash

By Steven Beacom

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Club (AONISC) say they are understanding of the decision to play today's 'training match' between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland behind closed doors.

When the announcement was made last month that the derby tussle would take place with no fans or media allowed into the stadium, there was much debate amongst the Northern Ireland supporters about being unable to see the action.

There is a sense now, though, that only one international is truly on their minds and that is the Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania at Windsor Park on June 13.

Gary McAllister, spokesperson for AONISC revealed his members did not seem concerned that they would not be granted access to the Aviva stadium today.

"We understand that this is a training game and not a full international match and that no international caps will be awarded," he said. "None of our members have raised the point about not getting into the Aviva Stadium as an issue with us."

The last time Northern Ireland played the Republic at the Aviva stadium in 2011, only around 200 fans travelled to Dublin to see the visitors lose 5-0 in the Carling Nations Cup. Normally thousands of Northern Ireland fans would have attended such an occasion but the build up to the game had been overshadowed by a continuing row between the IFA and FAI over player eligibility and because of that and supporters unhappy over security arrangements for the game, the vast majority of the Green and White Army opted to boycott the fixture.

After fielding an understrength side in the 1-1 friendly draw with Qatar in Crewe, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill aims to play his best XI today with his Republic counterpart, Martin O'Neill, considering playing two different teams in each half.

Belfast Telegraph


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