'Teams don't like playing against us': McCarthy hopeful O'Neill's men can cause a shock in France
MICK McCarthy is convinced that Ireland should thrive on the prospect of taking on the toughest teams at Euro 2016 simply because this time last summer it seemed unlikely they would even get the chance to be there.
“Twelve months ago it looked like it wasn't going to happen but that result against Germany turned it around,” said the former Ireland World Cup captain and manager.
“They got a bit of momentum and qualified comfortably against Bosnia. I think everyone should look forward with optimism to the European Championships.
“It didn't look like we were going to go 12 months ago but it should be a positive feeling. They have done wonderful, Martin (O’Neill) and Roy (Keane) and now they are in the European Championships.
“They have qualified for the tournament, which was their remit so I guess they have got the best out of themselves and the players available to them.”
Now that they are there, it may be an even more difficult assignment to get out of a group which features highly-fancied duo Belgium and Italy, alongside traditional tournament tough nuts Sweden.
“It's a tough group and the European Championships are notorious,” says McCarthy.
“There are some weaker teams in it because they expanded it but you still have to beat the bigger teams to win it.
“And the three teams that we have are exceptionally tough but that's always been the case, you don't go into a championship thinking it's going to be easy.
“The last European Championships in Poland was a disappointment. But you do your best and see what happens. And it's generally been the case that teams don't like playing against us.”
Ipswich boss McCarthy hopes that two of his Tractor Boys might be involved this summer as they scrap for a limited berth amongst the striking options.
Daryl Murphy, who missed the final weeks of the domestic campaign with a calf problem, ironically sustained while away with Ireland, has made 20 international appearances and, despite not yet scoring a goal, is a firm favourite with O’Neill and likely to travel.
David McGoldrick, who returned to action in the final weeks of the season following a hamstring injury and scored two goals in the Blues’ final two games, has previously won two caps but is viewed as a long shot.
“I thought they'd be in the preliminary squad anyway, it's great for them but it's up to Martin if they go eventually,” says McCarthy, whose side finished just outside the Championship play-offs this season.
“They are both fit, Murph's missed the last ten games but he's fit and David is raring to go, to be honest. He has missed a lot of football and he's hungry for it, he's not wanting his holidays, he wants to make up for lost time, he played in the last four games for me and he's alright, they are both fine.
“We couldn't achieve anything, other than finishing seventh, so once the play-offs had gone, I really wanted him to be fit and available for the Euros which he is.
“He is different to any of the other strikers, he’s very good, he's a good finisher, he can take the ball and keep hold of it, he drops in and plays.
“He's not one who threatens off the shoulder all the time, though he can do that as he's quick enough. He's a comfortable, technical player.
“Daryl was prolific last season. As for not scoring, there's a first time for everything.
“He will get one at some stage. It's whether he gets a start as they'll have to look at him in the friendlies coming up and only Martin will decide if he gets a chance.
“He was outstanding last season and he's only missed games this season through injury but he's fit now and has his opportunity with the games coming up.”
Mick McCarthy will contribute a series of exclusive columns to the Paddy Power Blog throughout Euro 2016 in which he’ll candidly discuss the key matches, tactics and Ireland’s chances.