European U21 Finals: Irish associations launch joint bid for 2023 tournament

Shayne Lavery (left) in action for the Northern Ireland Under-21s against Iceland last March
Neither Northern Ireland nor the Republic have ever qualified for the a European Under-21 finals

The Irish FA and Football Association of Ireland have launched a joint bid to host the 2023 European Under-21 Championship finals.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson and his FAI counterpart John Delaney announced details of the bid in Belfast on Thursday.

A decision on the competition hosts is expected in early 2020.

Neither Northern Ireland nor the Republic have ever qualified for a European Under-21 finals.

However, Ian Baraclough's Northern Ireland team recently completed the country's best ever qualifying campaign in the competition as they finished second in their group behind Spain.

Kingspan Stadium and Thomond Park part of bid

While venues will be finalised as part of the bid process, the National Stadium at Windsor Park would stage the final with games also taking place at the Aviva Stadium, the redeveloped Dalymount Park, Ballymena Showgrounds, Tallaght Stadium and Turner's Cross in Cork.

The Irish Rugby Football Union has also confirmed that Thomond Park in Limerick and Kingspan Stadium in Belfast can be used as potential venues in any bid and it is estimated the tournament could generate in the region of £20m for the local economies.

It is the first time the associations have worked together on a joint tournament bid and comes before the senior friendly between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on 15 November.

IFA chief executive Nelson said hosting the 2023 tournament would "help grow the game at all levels".

"Northern Ireland successfully hosted the 2017 Uefa Women's Under-19 Championship and will host the Uefa Under-19 Championship in 2020. We saw last year how a tournament can help inspire a generation to play football," said the IFA chief.

"We could not host a tournament of this scale on our own, therefore I am pleased that both associations are working in partnership on this bid."

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'Brexit won't affect joint Irish bid to host 2023 European Under-21 finals'

Delaney says joint bid 'historic'

The FAI chief executive described Thursday's announcement as "historic".

If the bid is successful, the tournament will take place 102 years after one association on the island became two when the Football Association of Ireland was founded following the establishment of the then Irish Free State.

"It sees both the FAI and the Irish FA working together on a project which will bring significant benefits to Ireland - north and south," added Delaney.

"We believe that the unique nature of our bid makes it a compelling vision for both Uefa and the wider European football family.

"Both associations have a recent history of working together on various projects, including third level football, walking football, and the introduction of the President's Junior Cup.

"This joint bid further strengthens that level of co-operation and co-hosting the Under-21 finals in 2023 will follow on from our hosting of the Under-17 Euros next summer and four games in Euro 2020 in the Aviva Stadium."

The European Under-21 Final were first played as an eight-team tournament in 1978 when Yugoslavia defeated East Germany in the finals.

In 2017, the finals in Poland were extended to a 12-team tournament.

Next year's tournament will be hosted by Italy and San Marino.

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