Friday night brought massive news for Irish football fans. Reports emerged in the UK that the combined UK-Ireland bid for EURO 2028 is set to go unopposed, seemingly locking them in as hosts.
It's an exciting day for Irish football fans, and the countdown to the tournament will begin in earnest once the news is confirmed by UEFA.
EURO 2028: Ireland and UK bid set to go unopposed
The FAI, IFA, and the football associations of Wales, Scotland, and England announced last month that they would be pivoting away from their original hope of hosting the 2030 World Cup. Instead, the five associations would bid together to hold EURO 2028 in Ireland and the UK.
Now, that seems like a choice that will land the five associations the international tournament they wanted. The Daily Mail reported late on Friday night that the two opposing bids are set to be withdrawn, leaving the Ireland-UK EURO 2028 bid completely unopposed.
The proposed Russian bid is no longer feasible, given the reprehensible invasion currently ongoing of Ukraine by Russian forces.
The absence of a Russian bid left Turkey as the only expected opposition. Now, the Turkish bid has also been withdrawn, leaving only the UK and Ireland remaining.
The Daily Mail also report that UEFA will not actively pursue more bidders, as they are content with the stability offered by the British and Irish bid.
The news means that, for the first time ever, Ireland will host a major international football tournament. The Aviva Stadium was set to host four games in last year's delayed EURO 2020, before COVID restrictions forced the games to Seville.
This bid has certainly progressed better than the infamous Irish-Scottish bid to host EURO 2008.
It is little under a month since the British and Irish bid for EURO 2028 was announced and now it appears to be the early winner. The question for Irish fans will now be: how many games will take place in Ireland, and where?
Dublin will more than likely be the hub of the FAI's operations, with both Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium in contention to host games in the tournament. FAI CEO Jonathan Hill has already confirmed that discussions are underway for Croke Park to hold games during the tournament:
Both Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium would be in our thinking.
In terms of the feasibility study that we initiated before in relation to the World Cup bid - absolutely [we've engaged with the GAA].
That was part of our initial decision.
From the Northern Irish side of things, it is hard to look past Belfast as the preferred host city. The question merely remains as to which stadium in Belfast will be used, with the renovated Casement Park presenting an alternative to Windsor Park.
It is expected that the final will be held at Wembley, despite the crowd trouble at the EURO 2020 final.
With a potential expansion to 32 teams for 2028, there's a better chance that Ireland will be granted automatic qualification for the tournament. That would also see the number of games in the tournament increase, likely meaning more games in Dublin.
We await official confirmation, but it seems like fans in Ireland finally have some major tournament action on home soil to look forward to at EURO 2028. We can only hope that Chiedozie Ogbene, Jason Knight, and co. are just hitting their peaks ahead of the tournament, and Stephen Kenny can bring the side on a run deep into the tournament.
We can dream.