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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Republic ace wants fans' backing
Stephen Ireland
Stephen Ireland celebrates after scoring against Wales
Group D: Rep of Ire v Slovakia
Date: Wednesday 28 March
Kick-off: 1930 BST
Venue: Croke Park
Updates: BBC Five Live Sport, BBC Sport website and mobile

Republic of Ireland star Stephen Ireland is calling on fans to help the team secure victory over Slovakia in Wednesday night's Euro 2008 qualifier.

There was a relatively subdued atmosphere throughout Saturday's 1-0 win over Wales, despite 70,000 Irish supporters crammed into Croke Park.

"Hopefully, people will now get behind us a bit more and push us on," said the Manchester City midfielder.

"The backing from the fans at Croke Park will be a major weapon for us."

He added: "It's a great stadium with a great atmosphere and, with the fans behind us, it will help us raise our game an awful lot.

"It's not our home territory yet, but getting the first win there will at least settle us down."

The fans' apathy was alarmingly underlined on Sunday ahead of Bernard Dunne's successful defence of his European super bantamweight title in front of his home crowd in Dublin.

A number of squad players attended the fight and, following an introduction to the 8,000-strong audience at the Point Depot as "the Irish soccer team", there were boos.

Ireland, who has scored match-winning goals in his last two games and has hit three in his last three appearances, is looking to the fans to give the players the lift they need against Slovakia.

"I think we're in a good position, and very much in the running for qualification," he said.

"We go into the game on the same number of points as the Czech Republic, as Germany's win over them on Saturday went in our favour.

"If you'd given us this opportunity to catch the Czech Republic a few months ago, of course we would have grabbed it."

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