Northern Ireland fans in cut price Dublin away day
Northern Ireland fans are preparing to invade Dublin next month — with around 5,000 set to make the short trip for the Carling Nations Cup match against Scotland at the Aviva stadium.
Tickets for the game are selling at a reduced rate of 20 euros (£17), down from 60 euros, sparking a sudden surge in interest here in the last week.
But even allowing for that and the travelling Tartan Army, there is likely to be 40,000 empty seats in the ground on February 9.
It won't be the only match in the round-robin tournament involving Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales which won't will fill the stadium fuelling fears that the event may not be financially viable.
Irish FA President, Jim Shaw, however, is positive that with the revenue from Sky TV, who are screening all the games live and attendances for the Republic games, that the competition will prove to be a hit — and certainly more popular than meaningless friendlies had this tournament not been taking place.
Shaw said: “Obviously the stadium won't be full for our game with Scotland, but we'll have 5,000 fans in the Aviva and Scotland will have about the same and with neutrals the attendance could be between 10,000 and 12,000 which is more than the organisers projected for.
“People also have to bear in mind there are six matches in the tournament with the Republic playing in three of them and they will get bigger gates at higher prices for those fixtures which will bring lots of money in.
“And of course there is a significant deal with Sky TV which financially will make a big difference. I would think the tournament will generate more income than your normal run of the mill friendlies which it has replaced.
“From our point of view at the IFA we are feeling positive about it and the impression I get from the managers, players and fans is the same.”
The day before Northern Ireland meet Scotland, the Carling Nations tournament kicks-off when the Republic of Ireland play Wales on February 8.
Nigel Worthington's men take on the Republic in an eagerly anticipated clash on May 24 and finish their campaign against Wales three days later.
It's 12 years since Northern Ireland played in Dublin – that was in aid of the Omagh Bomb fund when Danny Griffin scored the only goal in an away win.
Northern Ireland supporters are awaiting to hear how many tickets they will receive for this year's Republic game. It has been suggested that they could easily sell an allocation of as many as 15,000.
“There is a lot of interest in the game with the Republic, but the match against Scotland has captured the imagination too,” said Gary McAllister, spokesman of the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs.
“Our travelling support has been exceptional in recent years and from people that I have spoken to, everyone is looking forward to going to Dublin next month.
“It is a tough time financially and with all the other matches coming up this year, taking 5,000 for the Scotland game is good going.”