Uncertainty over RTÉ coverage of Ireland’s World Cup play-off

Uefa scheduling clash with Champions League means Vera Pauw’s side could play in Glasgow at same time as Celtic v RB Leipzig

The “Can’t See, Can’t Be” slogan, used to promote women’s sport in Ireland, is facing a stress test on October 11th.

To qualify for next year’s World Cup the Republic of Ireland must overcome the winners of Scotland versus Austria, who play off at Hampden Park on October 6th but there is a looming problem.

The Champions League has thrown up some tasty fixtures that same Tuesday evening, with RTÉ contractually obliged to show at least one of them, be it Copenhagen against Manchester City at 5.45pm or Celtic versus Leipzig in Glasgow at 8pm.

The Irish Times asked Uefa to explain their decision to put the women’s World Cup play-offs up against the men’s Champions League, and if Scotland progress, in the same city at the same time but their media department did not respond to separate emailed queries before publication.


The Scottish Football Association are openly marketing the Scotland against Ireland match at Hampden Park for 7.35pm, even though Austria could still eliminate them, which means a direct clash with the Celtic game, 2.7km across town.

“Both matches are in Uefa competitions,” said a Scottish FA spokesman. “They are scheduled by Uefa and we have no jurisdiction over the scheduling.”

When asked if they requested the 7.35pm kick-off time, the Scottish FA added: “Fixture clashes do occur sometimes across men’s and women’s competitions as I’m sure you will be aware. It is of course regrettable that the scheduling [of] the two matches take place on the same evening.

“On previous occasions when we have set earlier kick-off times for Scotland women’s national team matches the feedback we received from supporters was that a later kick-off was preferable, with many struggling to make the earlier time.”

The Austrian FA, should they beat Scotland on October 6th, are seeking a 6pm kick-off against Vera Pauw’s Ireland, to allow their broadcast partners switch to the Dinamo Zagreb v Red Bull Salzburg match at 8pm.

Both situations make it difficult for RTÉ to show consecutive live matches, without using the News Now channel, but the national broadcaster is prioritising the Ireland game, even if that means a nine-minute interval between full-time in Austria and kick-off at Celtic Park.

Extra time and penalties would spoil this plan, with RTÉ needing to explain to Uefa that the Champions League was moved sideways, from its prime-time slot, because of Uefa’s own fixture congestion.

“What do I say about that?” asked Pauw during the announcement of a 28-strong squad, held at Cadbury’s headquarters in Coolock. “We leave all that other stuff to our marketing and communications teams.”

Pauw’s main gripe is that the other play-off games, involving top seeds Iceland and Switzerland, could kick off later than Ireland, giving them a distinct advantage when it comes to avoiding an Intercontinental play-offs in New Zealand next February.

“I don’t understand. Every last round of a competition is played at the same time. And I have asked [Uefa] why, but they haven’t given me an answer. So one team might know they need an extra goal and they can gamble. And that is very unfair play. But to be honest, the whole set-up has not been the best. It’s not yet amended by Uefa. It’s very strange.”

Ireland have already suffered three injury blows ahead of the play-offs, as Megan Connolly (fractured ribs, bruised kidney), Ellen Molloy (knee) and Liverpool striker Leanne Kiernan (ankle) are unavilable. However, veteran defender Niamh Fahey and winger Jamie Finn are fit to return.

Republic of Ireland — WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion), Eve Badana (DLR Waves).

Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Claire O’Riordan (Celtic), Diane Caldwell (Reading), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Hayley Nolan (London City Lionesses), Chloe Mustaki (Bristol City), Megan Campbell (Liverpool), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United).

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Niamh Farrelly (Parma), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut University), Jess Ziu (West Ham United), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City), Isibeal Atkinson (West Ham United).

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Amber Barrett (FFC Turbine Potsdam), Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne), Saoirse Noonan (Durham WFC), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge).

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent