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Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK

Sport: Football

Irish given European boost

Republic of Ireland: Turmoil could help their cause

The Republic of Ireland's chances of qualifying for next years' European Championship could be given a boost if war-torn Yugoslavia's team are expelled from the competition.

Yugoslavia and Macedonia could be forced out of Group eight because of the war in the Balkans, leaving Ireland, Croatia and Malta to play for qualification.

The IFA's Brandon McKenna: "This needs to be sorted out as soon as possible"
The European Union has told its member countries to sever all sporting links with Yugoslavia, although football's European governing body, UEFA, will not make a decision before May 11.

Football Association of Ireland chief executive Bernard O'Byrne has appealed to UEFA to make a decision on the already devastated Group Eight fixture list "as soon as humanly possible".

"I would have thought UEFA should have made a ruling over Yugoslavia by now but I guess it is Macedonia that is the next problem," McCarthy said.

"They are not officially at war, but they are right next to it and I can't imagine how Skopje could cope with 200,000 refugees and still find room for football visitors.

"We've been there before a couple of years ago in a World Cup qualifier and it was clear they had more than enough of their own problems then."

All McCarthy can do is try to maintain his own players' spirits, which were lifted again by Wednesday night's 2-0 friendly victory over Sweden in Dublin.

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