Irish fans in front of the Moulin Rouge in Paris on Thursday. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]

Late blow to Euro hopes

The Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 campaign resumes this evening (2:45 p.m. Eastern) in Paris, but with the bad news that star striker Evan Ferguson has withdrawn with a knee injury having initially reported for international duty.

 Having gotten a new contract from the FAI after a poor World Cup campaign, Stephen Kenny’s Euro 2024 campaign started promisingly with a good performance against France at the Aviva back in March. We probably deserved a share of the spoils that night, but it was France who took all three points thanks to a goal from Pavard. 

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Naturally Irish supporters were in confident mood heading to Athens in June for the game against Greece, but on the night the Irish, who had spent nine days in Turkey acclimatizing, were pulled apart and beaten 2-1. Three days later we duly beat Gibraltar 3-0 at the Aviva, but by then the damage had been done in Greece and our hopes of qualifying automatically were gone. Kenny has kept faith with his young team and once again the feeling is that we will put up a good show against France tomorrow and the Netherlands on Sunday, but will we get any points? 

This will be our first game  at the old Parc de Prince stadium since 1980, as Stade de France is being used for the Rugby World Cup. Tonight’s game will be Stephen’s 35th game in charge and he has won only 10 of his first 34. The gulf between France, World Cup finalists in 2002 and The Republic has become a lot wider since Ireland famously beat them 1-0 over 90 minutes in Paris in 2009, before Henry’s infamous hand ball set up Gallas for the winner in extra time.

 Earlier during Brian Kerr’s term in charge we were able to field a team of 11 EPL players in a World Cup qualifier in October 2004, which ended scoreless. Now many of our squad play in the Championship. Kenny has recalled Shane Duffy, Festy Ebosele and Aaron Connolly, who has impressed in recent games for Hull City. However, the manager is missing a right back. Seamus Coleman is injured and Matt Doherty is suspended and so Andrew Omobamidele, who didn’t make the initial squad, got a call-up after he was transferred to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League from Norwich on the final day of the transfer window last week.

Then the Netherlands visit the Aviva. It’s going to be strange having a kick-off at 7.45 p.m.  on Sunday night, but UEFA now control the kick-off times. 

Northern Ireland resume their Euro 2024 campaign with two away games — Slovenia in Ljubljana tonight and then Micheal O’Neill’s team travel to Astana to play Kazakhstan on Sunday afternoon.