A leading Northern Ireland football fan believes the team has a “fighting chance” of surviving the early stage of Euro 2016, after it was revealed the squad is to face reigning world champions Germany in the group stage.
The draw for Northern Ireland’s initial three games was made on Saturday, and fans can apply to UEFA for tickets from 11am on Monday.
Northern Ireland also play Poland and Ukraine.
Gary McAllister, chairman of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, said he expects the Germany match to be the most popular among those hoping to travel, even though they are the team most likely to beat Northern Ireland.
“There’s no pressure on the team to succeed,” he said.
“But I don’t see any reason why we can’t go there and compete and believe we have a chance of progressing into the second stage.”
He said for the likes of France, Spain or England, their squads will be forced to bear a considerable weight of expectation.
“Whereas from Northern Ireland’s point of view, reaching the finals itself is a huge achievement,” he said.
“Anything beyond that is going to be a bonus ... I don’t think we should be going into any games saying we’re definitely going to win that game, or that we’re sure to lose that game. I think we should do our best and see what comes of it.
“I don’t think we should do ourselves down.”
If the team win even one out of the three planned games, it will still give them a “fighting chance” of making it through to the last 16.
When it comes to travel advice, he advised supporters to “shop around” for prices.
While some individual flights can be costly, browsing different combinations of airlines online can yield some good deals.
The News Letter carried out a quick price comparison of return flights for a single adult, using the website Opodo.co.uk.
All three planned matches take place at 6pm, Central European Time.
For Northern Ireland’s first game on June 12 against Poland, the cheapest available return flights to Nice – departing on June 11 and returning on June 13 – were coming up as £183.40.
If flying out on June 12 itself and returning on June 13, the cheapest flight combination which may be capable of getting a fan to the game on time was £178.40 (landing at 4.35pm, French time).
For the match against the Ukraine in Lyon on the evening of June 16, the cheapest return flights – departing on June 15 and returning June 17 – were £256.78.
There appeared to be no flights on June 16 which would be capable of getting passengers to the evening match.
For the final match against Germany on June 21, the cheapest return flights departing June 20 and returning June 22 were £224.28.
The cheapest return flight combination, leaving on June 21 and returning the next day, was also £224.28 – but this left a traveller a mere 30 minutes to get to the match (a slightly more expensive combination, priced at £241.78, would see fans land at 4pm, French time, on match day).
These prices could yet change significantly.
In addition, Mr McCallister said that fans should bear in mind that they can still travel to airports some distance away if they leave enough time – perhaps even in neighbouring countries – or take the Eurotunnel.
Mr McCallister said: “In terms of numbers travelling, I think Germany will be the big draw, for two reasons: we’re playing the world champions, and also it’s in Paris, which is a lot more accessible for fans.”
Tickets are not allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
He said tickets are not allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
The IFA has drawn up a ‘priority list’, based on previous attendence at matches. In recent years, all international match tickets have been sold via Ticketmaster, providing a record of who has attended which game.
Tickets are limited to two per applicant, per match.
Appplications close on January 18. To apply. see this site: www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/ticketingTo apply, go to the following web address: www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/ticketing