Sporting Fingal FC's success in the UEFA Futsal Cup this season can help the Republic of Ireland's national side in their bid to qualify for UEFA Futsal EURO 2012.
That is the view of Ireland manager Derek O'Neill as the boys in green prepare to host Andorra, Norway and Israel in preliminary round Group F at Dublin's National Basketball Arena from Thursday. Futsal is still a developing sport in the Republic but an Irish side did get to play on the big stage in 2010 when Sporting Fingal progressed to the main round of the UEFA club competition, holding their own against leading teams including last season's bronze-medallists Araz Naxçivan.
Mark Langtry, Ross Zambra and Ian Carry all lined up for Fingal in the event and are now in O'Neill's national squad. "The players are really looking forward to the tournament," the manager said. "Whereas previously we would use these matches to gain valuable experience for players, we now feel we are ready to make an impact on the tournament. Obviously, as relative newcomers to high-level futsal, every match represents a stiff challenge and a learning curve for us but the players now believe they can do well next week and will give it their all."
The Fingal side which played in the UEFA Futsal Cup relied heavily on foreign players with imports from Brazil, Poland and Moldova featuring alongside their Irish international trio. Instead, seven of O'Neill's 14-man squad are drawn from Shamrock Rovers FC, a club that enjoyed a very successful year in 2010. Just as Michael O'Neill's side won football's Premier Division, so the Hoops' futsal squad managed to clinch their league title in December – at the National Basketball Arena – and players like John Somers and Ian Byrne will be vital to Irish hopes.
Ireland open the qualifying tournament with a game against Andorra, then play Norway before their final group game against Israel. Two years ago in their first EURO campaign they beat England but lost to Cyprus and Kazakhstan; more recently they visited Finland for two December friendlies, and were defeated 5-0 and 8-2. They will hope for better over the coming days.
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