FAI drive to fill Aviva Stadium results in Late Late Show surprise 2 months ago

FAI drive to fill Aviva Stadium results in Late Late Show surprise

That's another chunk of seats filled anyway.

The Mick McCarthy roadshow rolled back into Dublin this week and the Ireland boss was on the hard sell.

Some of the striking images of the final matches of the Martin O'Neill reign were of huge swathes of empty seats as the Irish football team struggled to get that winning feeling back. Attendances plummeted as the public stayed away in droves.

That, allied with some poor results, meant the FAI had to act. They intrigued us all by bringing back Mick McCarthy but stating that Stephen Kenny would take over after a two-year stint with the U20s.

McCarthy says he was driving up towards Sunderland on the day the departure of O'Neill and Roy Keane, his assistant, was confirmed. That news broke as he entered the mile-long Dartford Tunnel. McCarthy claims he had 25 messages on his phone by the time, mere minutes later, that his car emerged from the tunnel.

Was he interested in meeting the FAI to discuss coming back for another stint as Ireland boss? That was one of the messages he received. He was.

A trip over to Dublin to meet with the FAI officials and a plan was set in motion. He would take up the post for two years and try get Ireland qualified for a European Championships tournament in 2020 that will be coming to these shores, for group stage matches, whether the boys in green are qualified or not.

One of the big talking points from McCarthy's meetings with the FAI were about the need to get fans back engaged with the national team. That would include plenty of press outings and getting over to Ireland regularly despite him still living in England. Public appearances were key and getting him on the Late Late Show would surely help that drive to fill the Aviva Stadium, later this month (Georgia), and for the rest of the 2020 campaign.

Speaking to host Ryan Tubridy, McCarthy said the silver lining of his relentless publicity drive was getting back to Dublin and seeing familiar faces. He commented:

MCCARTHY: A lot of it is just the periphery, isn't it? It's a necessary evils to do before the game.

TUBRIDY: What? What are you talking about?

MCCARTHY: Well. just being over and promoting the games and selling tickets... Listen, we've got a real good support behind us. We've said myself, Robbie Keane and TC (Terry Connors) have had a lot of good-will shown to us, and a lot of support. So I guess it's garnering that and trying to get that [support] into the first game and certainly the second game, which is at home against Georgia. So, doing things that are necessary to do. Being here and sometimes pressing flesh and smiling at people and promoting the game, and the FAI, all for the cause of trying to win the first two games, of course."

Hardly P.T Barnum and hardly The Greatest Show, but McCarthy is out there - wherever the FAI can get him - urging fans to get back to the Aviva Stadium and cheer on the Irish team.

The FAI want the Aviva Stadium as close to damn full as it can be when Georgia come to town on Tuesday, March 26.

They certainly filled one section of the Lansdowne Road ground with their stunt at the end of the McCarthy interview. One wonders how much the former Ireland captain knew about what was coming next as he made to leave before Tubridy asked him to hold on a few moments.

Then, as it has so often done over the decades, Tubridy started a teaser spiel that would end with the phrase, 'And there's one for everyone in the audience'.

That's right, the association had a bonus for the hundreds in attendance at the Late Late - they will all be sitting back in close proximity when Vladimir Weiss brings his Georgia team over for the Euro 2020 qualifier.

As one card commented on Twitter, at least that's a couple of hundred seats filled.