By Mark Jones and Sean Creedon
DUBLIN — The old saying that "it’s an ill wind that doesn’t benefit someone” is certainly true for Irish soccer supporters in the United States. Following the Republic of Ireland’s failure to qualify for the Euro 2000 finals, the FAI has accepted an invitation to take part in the Nike U.S. Cup from June 3-11 next year.
The Republic, one of the four teams taking part, will be up against Mexico, South Africa and the U.S. in a round robin series of games in early June.
Although the venues for the Cup have yet to be confirmed, it is expected that New York, Boston and Washington will stage matches, with the possibility of Chicago also hosting one fixture.
While the games will be something of a consolation prize for manager Mick McCarthy after his team’s failure to qualify for the European championship finals, he will have the opportunity to blood several new players.
As in 1996 tournament when McCarthy introduced Ian Harte, Kenny Cunningham, Gary Breen, Keith O’Neill and David Connolly, the manager will have the opportunity to try out the likes of Stephen McPhail, Gary Doherty and Liam George in preparation for the World Cup qualifiers towards the end of next year.
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So instead of home supporters getting an opportunity of following the Boys in Green to the finals in Belgium and Holland, Irish immigrants instead will get another opportunity to see the young side Mick McCarthy is building for the 2002 World Cup campaign. Although venues have not been confirmed, the Republic opponents will be the USA, Mexico and South Africa.