FAI chief John Delaney believes that Euro 2016 could provide new Irish sporting heroes, which he says would coincide nicely with the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
Speaking at the launch of the FAI’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020, Delaney said that he believes that the game of football is in rude health throughout Ireland and the entire nation is looking forward to following the ‘People’s Team’ at this summer’s European Championships in France.
And with over four months to the start of the championships, Delaney believes that preparations are going very well, which is allowing the team to start concentrating on the games in June.
“I think that it’s great that 100 years since 1916, that we’ll hopefully have new sporting heroes."
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Delaney said: “We are very pleased that our base camp will be in Versailles; decent hotel, good training centre and Martin and Roy have been out to see it.
“And we’ve lined up our friendly matches with Switzerland, Slovakia and Holland, so from our point of view, it’s great to be there and the facilities and preparations are going very well.
“We have also concluded our arrangements with the players. John O’Shea and Robbie Keane were very helpful. We’ve come to that agreement very quickly, and that’s another piece of the preparations done now, and now we can focus on the games in June.”
With huge numbers planning to travel to France in June, the FAI chief has been busy this week securing extra tickets for the Irish fans and while Delaney admits the task of facilitating every supporter is impossible, every effort will be made to ensure that there is as many of the Green Army as possible inside each stadium this summer.
“Tickets are always an issue, we’ve had huge applications. Satisfying that demand will be impossible but we’re certainly doing our best to get as many tickets as we can.
“We’re going to push as many people as we can to get as many tickets for Irish fans to go to those games.
"We got some during the week, over 6,000, and we secured another 1200 today, which will be 400 tickets for each game, so we will be consistently be pressing UEFA and whatever sources we can, be it other national associations, who can get tickets for games.
“But it’s a great problem to have to be sitting here and looking forward to the biggest event in Europe this year.”
And Delaney is hopeful that this tournament could provide some more historic moments in Irish football to match Ray Houghton’s goals in Stuttgart and Giants Stadium, or David O’Leary’s penalty at Italia ’90.
“Since qualifying, the hype around us going to the Euros is incredible," added Delaney. "It is the most sought after and looked forward to event in sport in this particular year.
“The soccer team are the people’s team, they really are. When the Irish team gets to major tournaments, this country shuts down. We’re going to see that next June for sure.
“I think that it’s great that 100 years since 1916, that we’ll hopefully have new sporting heroes 100 years later in France and hopefully the Irish team can do the country proud.”