herald

Saturday 21 April 2018

FAI will hope for expat crowd at Latvian friendly

IRELAND will play Latvia on the vacant World Cup play-off date on November 15, four days before the team travels to Poznan for a second friendly against Poland.

It looks like the FAI have done a smart bit of business and agreed a friendly with another nation that can make a sizeable financial contribution to the cost of opening the Aviva for a football match.

There were justifiable concerns about the fixture after the very poor crowd which turned up for the game against Kazakhstan and the possibility that Ireland would still be without a permanent manager.

Given the difficulties the FAI have had in attracting paying customers to the Aviva since it opened, the notion of a game against one of Europe's weaker football nations doesn't immediately excite the senses.

But like Poland in February last year, there is still a sizeable Latvian expat population in the country and many that have settled down to a new life here.

The Polish community in Ireland came out in force on a chilly night at the Aviva 10 months ago and clearly, the hope is that the Latvians among us will do the same.

The alternative option, Slovenia, might have provided a more testing challenge for Ireland's young squad, but would hardly have registered a murmur at the turnstiles.

Even with the bonus of a healthy pool of potential Latvian punters, there will be some trepidation about the level of tickets sales in the next few weeks.

There is no confirmation that Ireland Under-21 boss Noel King will once again take charge of the senior team, but it is difficult to imagine that the FAI would look any further if the new man is not in place before then.

Ruud Dokter is still involved in the recruitment process for the new Ireland boss, but was able to get involved for the games against Germany and Kazakhstan last month.

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