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REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy "expected" his side's two-legged World Cup play-off to be switched to a one-off match at a neutral ground if military action got underway in Asia. The Asian qualifying matches are yet to be completed, but Ireland could face Iran, Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan - and with tension building in the area, McCarthy is anticipating a change of venue.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek, he said: ''All indications are if anything happens with the crisis it'll be a one-off game on neutral territory. It's such a shame - and we'll be dictated to by politicians. It's a shame we can't play."
Irrespective, FAI chiefs will today begin their preparations for the first leg of the World Cup play-off in Dublin on November 10. FAI officials will push FIFA officials to agree contingency plans for the second leg on November 15 when they meet at a UEFA meeting in Prague this week.
Merrion Square officials are steadfast in their determination to proceed as normal as far as possible despite developments in the Middle East. "I think there are five or six different countries still involved and the issues are different with each, " said Brendan Menton, General Secretary of the FAI.
"We are trying to avoid speculation because we don't think it is helpful to the situation but as soon as we have definitive information we will put it into the public domain.
"We see no problems with the game in Dublin on 10th November, we don't see any issues at all about that," he added.
"The second game, because we don't know where we're going, is a lot more difficult. Whatever happens will arise out of conversations we will have with FIFA but also with the other country involved."
The only issue decided in the two Asian groups is that China are through to the finals from Group B. UAE, Qatar and Uzbekistan could, conceivably, finish second to them while in Group A Saudi Arabia are expected to top the group with Iran expected to finish second.
The perceived wisdom is that Iran will face Ireland. The relevant dates are October 19 when the final placings in both groups will be settled and Ireland will know the competition to produce their opponents will beß reduced to two. The two legs of the play-off to produce Ireland's opponents are set for October 25 and 31.
Said Mr Menton: "There are exceptional circumstances out there and it is a situation which we can't control, which FIFA can't control, and I think we're going to be in a period of uncertainty for a number of weeks. We will react to that but we will have all our contingency plans in place."
Added FAI treasurer John Delaney: "The programme has been laid down by FIFA and we are set for the first leg of a play-off on November 10 in Dublin. We have little enough time to put everything in place and we cannot afford to sit back to see how events unwind. We must start work immediately to put everything in place and we see no reason why anything should prevent the game in Dublin from going ahead."
Meanwhile the FAI have no immediate plans to open discussions with manager Mick McCarthy on a possible extension to his contract as manager/coach. His current contract runs until February next.