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All we want for Christmas are tickets - Irish fans allocated 6,000 tickets by UEFA

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Robbie Keane celebrates Euro qualification last month

The first snows fell out our way on Tuesday, the same day the first begging text of many arrived in relation to a certain sporting event in Poland next summer.

Now, it has to be said, the few snowflakes that did land in this part of Meath as your favorite column was compiled were mere novices compared to the heavyweights that visited us this time last year.

If my memory is right -- and I’m now at an age where it’s sometimes easier to remember what happened 20 years ago rather than happened 20 minutes ago -- I was snowed in on this very day last December.

I couldn’t leave the house, not for love, money or a pint of my beloved Guinness. That I considered playing golf this week, and may yet do so on Friday, tells you just how milder it is 12 months on from Ireland’s famous Arctic winter of 2010.

It’s not only the weather that’s warmer by the way. Our hearts definitely have a better beat to them a year on from the arrival of the heavy snows and the IMF-EU troika, two unrelated events or so they tell me.

On Monday, UEFA opened their website to applications from Irish fans for tickets for next summer’s Euro 2012 finals when we’ll be going to Poland for the holidays and England will be off to the Ukraine.

Irish fans who traveled with the team for the qualifiers -- and there weren’t that many of them -- will have first preference in the UEFA lottery for the 6,000 or so tickets we will get for the three games against Croatia, Spain and Italy next summer.

Those who didn’t travel to the likes of Armenia, Macedonia or Estonia will be down the pecking order and forced to look at alternative means of sourcing tickets.

Some will beg their local clubs and leagues for help. The privileged few will pay the exorbitant prices being charged by travel agents keen to make hay while the sun shines on Irish soccer again.

Others will make contact with anyone they think has even a remote chance of landing a ticket to one of the three group games we’re guaranteed six months from now.

That explains why I got the first of what’s bound to be many texts on Tuesday from a man who just had to inform me that he’s booked his flights for Poznan and the final group match against Italy.

He is, you will be glad to know, looking for just the two tickets in case I happen to come across them anytime between now and then. Any two will do in fact, but preferably in the Irish end of the ground.
Actually, I tell a lie. He’s not the first man to ask me for tickets for the European Championship finals.

The first man is barely a man -- he’s only just turned 18.

Robbie Keane had barely scored the penalty that put the icing on Ireland’s 4-0 win away to Estonia in the first leg of the playoffs when eldest son Cillian texted me.

“Book our flights for Poland, we’re going to the Euros,” he said.

I had to admire his optimism at the time. Like my friend on Tuesday, Cillian believes not just in this Irish team but in his father’s chances of landing tickets for the big one in June.

Thankfully, I know just who to ask, and it’s not the FAI chief John Delaney. Father Christmas is due around these parts on Sunday week. I think it’s time to ask for his help on the ticket front -- before the rush!

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