McCarthy stays away as Euro 2020 lineup becomes clearer

FAI president Conway will attend the Euro 2020 finals draw in Bucharest at 5pm on Saturday

We can only imagine the sound Mick McCarthy must have made when somebody told him a few weeks back he was expected to attend the draw for the finals of Euro2020 – before knowing for sure whether his side might actually be participating.

Perhaps someone senior in Uefa delivered the news in person and got to witness his response for themselves or perhaps all of the managers of teams headed for the playoffs were told at the same time and the collective groan could be heard back in Nyon; perhaps there simply wasn't a hall big enough in the Romanian capital to accommodate everyone.

Whatever the reason, the organisers of this weekend’s extravaganza dropped the directive and the Ireland manager was allowed to stay at home.

John Delaney too, apparently, although for altogether different reasons.

For those still compelled to attend, the formalities will at least be shorter than usual. Nine of the 20 teams that have qualified for next summer’s finals already know which group they will be in leaving 11 to be allocated. Belgium, Russia and Denmark, all already in Group B, will discover will it be Wales for Finland who complete their line up. The order in which games are played will become apparent.

Almost as many nations again, meanwhile, the 16 who are headed for the playoffs in March, will find out the particular nature of the prize on offer should they negotiate their way through their two games in the springtime.

In the Republic of Ireland’s case, we already know, beating Slovakia then either Northern Ireland or Bosnia and Herzegovina away will yield two group games at the Aviva plus one against Spain in Bilbao. That, though, is up for grabs whichever of the four teams comes through the backdoor now better known as Playoff Path B.

The group will be completed by one of France, Poland, Switzerland or Croatia from among the second seeds and Portugal, Turkey, Austria, Sweden or the Czech Republic from the third. Ireland’s failure to qualify directly had already ensured that the game against co-hosts Spain would be away but there are still some attractive looking possibilities in there, most obviously involving France and Portugal.

If McCarthy’s men fail to qualify, on the other hand, and the biggest names are sent elsewhere this weekend then three of Dublin’s four Euro2020 games may end up amounting to a sort of triangular tournament involving three of the tournament’s slightly less glamorous sides. Poland would, at least, provide plenty of local interest.

There is a pretty decent prospect too, we already know, that England, another host guaranteed to be at home for all of their group games, will be in Lansdowne Road for their second round game, something that would generate plenty of interest too. All they must do to ensure that is put their advantage to good use and top their group.

If they do and Germany finish second in Group F, despite playing three times in Munich, then we might really be in a for a treat.

FAI president Donal Conway will be acutely aware of the permutations, no doubt, as he watches the draw in the auditorium.

Delaney’s absence, due to his ongoing Uefa executive committee limbo, will be a reminder, though, that there are still some gloomy days to get through even before we discover whether McCarthy and co will even get to be at the party Ireland has been waiting so long to play a part in hosting.