The 2016 European Championship in France is now only a matter of months away. The excitement level is growing in both the North and the South of Ireland. The fans are planning their trips and many of them have been to see the bank manager, to try and fund their journey. Over 275,000 alone, have applied for tickets for Euro 2016 in the South and the figure in the North is fast approaching record levels. It is going to be a festival of fun this summer and the party atmosphere the Irish fans can bring with them will make this tournament one of the greatest ever, because as everyone knows the Irish love a party. Fans will travel without tickets as well, just to be a part of the big show.
Meanwhile both managers, Martin O'Neill and his counterpart in Northern Ireland Michael O'Neill have been fine tuning their plans for this summers finals. They both have also been anxiously watching the transfer market window which has just closed. It is vitally important to both managers that all their players are getting game time. Two players who have been very influential for their international managers are Aiden McGeady and Kyle Lafferty, so both managers would have been very pleased to see their players secure loan deals during the transfer window. McGeady has moved from Everton to Sheffield Wednesday and personally I think this is a fabulous move for Aiden. As I am putting this article together it is been strongly rumoured that Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty is to join Leeds United when the loan window opens up. Michael O'Neill really needs Lafferty fit and scoring goals as a lot of the North's game plan will involve Kyle.
The Republic of Ireland manager has set up three friendlies before the tournament against Switzerland, Slovakia and The Netherlands, all of these games will be Dublin. O'Neill has hinted that he will use a lot of fringe players in these games, so he can see overall what will be the strength of a squad he can bring with him to France. The games Martin has set up have been hand picked and will his squad a great run out in advance of the finals. It will be a precarious couple of months as the games loom and what O'Neill will need is committed performances from everyone involved. The Republic of Ireland are in a tough group and at the moment are on a high after qualifying, albeit through the playoffs. It will need a lot of hard work in these upcoming games to make sure the players are properly prepared to go to the finals in good form. Martin O'Neill's team thrive on confidence and at the moment it is sky high. These games could be a big step forward for the Republic of Ireland players, as they look forwards to the championships.
Northern Ireland are on a huge roll since qualifying out of their group for Euro 2016, and will be at a major finals for the first time in 40 years. Manager Michael O'Neill has his planning well underway and he knows he has his work cut out to get through a tough group at the finals. The North are in a group alongside Poland, Ukraine and World Champions Germany. It will be a tough road for Michael and his team but I am sure their opponents will not fancy the prospect of taking on a confident Irish side who are not just turning up to make the numbers. The Irish FA have lined up friendlies in March against Wales in Cardiff and Slovenia in Belfast. Like his counterpart in the South, Michael is getting around to a lot of grounds to watch his players perform and like the Republic of Ireland manager, he needs to see his players getting game time.
A lot of what will happen in the summer will depend on certain things falling into place for both Irish sides. With only a couple of months to the kick off, the excitement level is growing on this little Island of ours. No matter what happens on the field, the Irish fans will take part in the tournament with all the enthusiasm of a four year old waiting for Christmas. Let us all just hope, that when the football present is open, both the North and South have a terrific Euro 2016.