Ireland Inc will come to a halt on Friday as the nation awaits the fate of its soccer and rugby heroes on both sides of the world.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s soccer stars get the ball rolling when they take on tiny Andorra in a vital European Championship qualifier at 8.30 Irish time on Friday evening.
The spotlight then turns to Declan Kidney’s rugby side when they tackle Celtic neighbors Wales in the World Cup quarter-final at 6am Irish time on Saturday morning.
The Irish soccer team have already vowed to stay up on their return from Andorra to add their long distance support to their rugby counterparts.
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But first up they can take a massive step towards the European Championship finals with a win in Andorra ahead of Tuesday night’s final group game at home to Andorra.
Two wins – and a Slovakia victory over Russia in Zilina on Friday night – will see Ireland through to Euro 2012 as Group B winners.
Soccer team captain Robbie Keane has promised his team will give it their all on a bumpy pitch and in a tiny stadium on Friday night.
“After the game, whatever happens, we will have no excuses,” said Keane ahead of Friday night’s match in front of just 850 fans in Andorra.
“We are looking forward to the game. Of course it is different circumstances to what we are used to, but just have to get on with it.
“You go into every game wanting to win. We are the clear favorites and rightly so, but we have to just concentrate on what we are doing and focus on our own jobs.
“We can’t just come here and think we are just going to get three points and that’s it, and walk out. We have to earn it and give 100%, and we will do that.”
The soccer team will have barely arrived back in Dublin when the rugby side kick-off their World Cup quarter-final thousands of miles away in Wellington.
Winger Keith Earls summed up the determination within the Ireland squad when he said: “A lot of people didn’t respect us, or didn’t believe we could go this far in the World Cup. But we’ve been playing well and are in the right place.
“If we stick to our game plan we can beat anyone on our day.
“The likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and Gordon D’Arcy have been around for a long time.
“This is Brian’s fourth World Cup but he has only played in one quarter-final. A player of his caliber should be playing in semi-finals and finals on the world stage.
“Hopefully this will be the year for the senior players.”
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