Belfast Telegraph

Slovakia clash rules out an all-Ireland test

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland will not face the Republic of Ireland in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly.

A meeting with Scotland, however, could take place at Windsor Park in May before the Green and White Army makes the journey to France.

The Irish FA's announcement that Michael O'Neill's team will travel to Slovakia on Saturday, June 4 for their final warm-up game before heading to their base in France means that a meeting with former Northern Ireland captain Martin O'Neill is now out of the equation.

The respective bosses had stated that they would be open to meeting in a friendly fixture after a behind-closed-doors match was staged at the Aviva Stadium last summer.

The newly redeveloped Windsor Park - which will be nearing completion by the end of May - emerged as the proposed venue after the Republic announced that they would play Holland on May 27 in their final home game before the tournament.

Under Uefa rules, however, Northern Ireland's match against Slovakia - who will face England and Wales at Euro 2016 - rules out the possibility of playing against any other team that is also preparing for the European finals.

Article 21 of the Regulations of the Uefa European Football Championship, which relates to friendly matches, states: "In the month preceding the final tournament, each participating team, including France, is allowed to play a maximum of one friendly match against another participating team, provided that the two teams are not in the same final tournament group."

The IFA's official announcement of the match against Slovakia in Trnava - where Linfield played in this season's Europa League - also stated that a final home friendly would be staged towards the end of May.

That friendly will have to be against a country that hasn't qualified for Euro 2016 and Scotland would fit the bill.

The IFA have been hoping to attract a glamour game to officially open the rebuilt Windsor Park and after getting a knock-back from England and with the home World Cup qualifier against world champions Germany not taking place until next year, the Scots, who were the opponents in the first-ever international to be played at Windsor, are now a realistic option.

Northern Ireland will also play a March friendly double-header against Wales in Cardiff and Slovenia in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph


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