UEFA charge Ireland over John Delaney tennis ball protest during Georgia match
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UEFA charge Ireland over John Delaney tennis ball protest during Georgia match

UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings against Ireland on Thursday after supporters hurled tennis balls onto the field during the European Championship qualifier against Georgia at the Aviva.

The match in Dublin on was held up for four minutes in the first half as Ireland fans threw dozens of tennis balls in protest at John Delaney’s continued role at the FAI.

The demonstration occurred just before Conor Hourihane’s winning free kick on the night.

It was in response to the FAI's decision to offer Delaney a newly-created Executive Vice President role shortly after he had stepped down as chief executive – and less than a week after it emerged the Association had received a €100,000 loan from him in 2017.

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Ireland supporters protest against Executive Vice President John Delaney as Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph looks on during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group D qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at the Aviva. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Eamon Dunphy was scathing of pundit Richie Sadlier, who had expressed sympathy for Irish supporters protesting on the night.

Writing in his Irish Daily Star column he said: "As for Richie Sadlier, he made an eejit of himself.

“I understand Richie is trying to make a name for himself, not that he is doing a great job in that department. He was the only so-called football person to give any kind of credence to that type of carry on.

“If people wanted to protest, they should have stayed away from the match. There are plenty of things to do - sing, chant, hold up banners - but don't interfere with the actual game.”

Disillusioned

During RTÉ's coverage of the game, Sadlier said: “Fans are angry and disillusioned for very legitimate reasons.

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"They were feeling this way long before Mick McCarthy took the job.

John Delaney Executive Vice President of the Football Association of Ireland and his partner Emma English look on during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group D qualifying match. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

"They feel if there is no meaningful change in the FAI at executive level and how it does its business they will continue to feel this way long after Mick leaves. We know he is going. It is a sign of how upset they are, how disgruntled they are, that they would turn up and do that.

"It's clear why they do that. They could go and do it tomorrow morning in their back gardens but there's no cameras. They do it here to bring attention to their reasons."

The FAI has been charged under Article 16 (2) of the UEFA disciplinary regulations after the planned protest delayed part of the match.

The charges will be dealt with by UEFA on Thursday, May 16.

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