Towering Duffy rescues a point for spirited Ireland as Danes curse luck
Denmark 1 Rep of Ireland 1
This was a better kind of draw for Ireland, a smash-and-grab raid that gave Denmark the punch in the gut that the away side was desperate to deliver.
Before kick-off at Parken Stadium, the big screen broadcast the highlights of that painful World Cup playoff in Dublin that still hangs over this generation of Irish players.
Danish manager Age Hareide even made a reference afterwards as he bemoaned his side's inability to get the job done.
"I think we need five goals to beat Ireland," he smiled. "One is not enough."
Shane Duffy's powerful 85th-minutee header, a moment in keeping with the quality of his performance, salvaged Ireland a point that was a reward for perseverance.
They looked dead and buried when a glancing header from Denmark sub Pierre Emile Hojbjerg sent the hosts wild with 15 minutes remaining. It was a breakthrough effort that was deserved on the balance of play, with Mick McCarthy acknowledging that his team were on the back foot for spells.
They had picked away at the guests, finding space with clever runs that will still present the visiting staff with food for thought. But Ireland responded with a strike that altered the tone of the post-mortem. McCarthy placed his faith in Alan Judge, bringing the Ipswich Town playmaker into the fray when the match was deadlocked, believing his energy might give Denmark a few more issues.
The 30-year-old has taken a long and winding road to this point, and his bravery won Ireland the free kick that he swung in for the towering of Duffy.
Judge didn't even get to enjoy the moment, with an awkward fall at full-time meaning he was the subject of medical treatment as the Irish squad celebrated. It was confirmed afterwards that he suffered a broken wrist.
"He livened things up" said McCarthy. "He just gave us a bit more forward momentum."
He's made his mark on this campaign now, whatever happens from here, contributing to the result that keeps the good vibes around the McCarthy era going.
Monday's visit of Gibraltar should be a routine send-off into the summer break.
The scheduling of Ireland's fixture list was favourable in terms of getting points on the board in the first half of the campaign. By negotiating this fixture unscathed, McCarthy's troops now have the platform to enter a hectic autumn with confidence.
"I thought we earned a bit of luck," said the Irish boss. Hareide was complimentary about Ireland too, a contrast from some previous observations for his camp. He sensed that they more willing to advance into the opposition half and be aggressive.
That's what made this a more enjoyable affair than your average June international.
It was a step up in quality and intensity from March and it exposed some flaws in the Irish make-up.
The analysis of this match should form the basis of the homework heading into the business end of this year.
Ireland's primary mission was to shackle Christian Eriksen, yet this game showed other Danish attacking players have the smarts to capitalise on the panic caused by his presence.
Centre-halves Richard Keogh and Duffy tried to push the away rearguard up in the early minutes to squeeze the opposition, but they fell deeper as the first half progressed. Wide men Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen continually ghosted inside into space.
On the occasions where Glenn Whelan was engaged with Eriksen, it left the visitors vulnerable to accurate passes forward and Denmark had success in this regard.
With Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick on the retreat, and the full backs torn, both Poulsen and Braithwaite kept finding shooting positions with the latter particularly dangerous.
Eriksen was influential too, benefiting from a calm head in some manic passages where Irish enthusiasm posed problems.
He overhit an early through-ball after carnage presented the opportunity, and there were parallels when Whelan and James McClean clattered into Poulsen and the advantage allowed Eriksen to advance deep into Irish territory. His path to goal was denied by a superb Duffy challenge, a reach-around that left no margin for error.
Ireland found themselves on the defensive as the interval approached, a contrast from a bright start when Seamus Coleman and Enda Stevens both got forward.
David McGoldrick was involved in some good moments too, but the clearest opportunity was a dead ball scenario with Hourihane's superb delivery inviting an attempt from Duffy who was off balance and unable to bundle the ball in.
That was encouraging for the away side, but trouble was invited with rash moments; clumsy challenges from Hourihane and Stevens gave away set-piece opportunities and a rushed clearance from McClean was almost costly.
Denmark cut Ireland open from the restart with Poulsen slipping between Stevens and Keogh before Randolph stood tall to keep him out. Granted, both McClean and McGoldrick threatened in the aftermath but there was no denying that Denmark were on top.
McCarthy looked to mix things up by withdrawing the frustrated Brady and sending in Judge. The newcomer took a central role close to McGoldrick with Hendrick shifting to the right side and Hourihane sitting deeper next to Whelan.
Yet it was a Danish sub that made the breakthrough, the goal a reflection of their superiority. Hendrick was unable to stop Jens Stryger Larsen from sending in a dangerous cross that was met by Hojbjerg with Denmark half a yard quicker in all departments.
Hareide celebrated like a relieved man, but there was more legs in this story. McCarthy sprung Scott Hogan for Hourihane and rejigged in an attempt to make this a happier Danish excursion. Judge nipped into space to draw a foul and dusted himself down to send in the ball that saved the day.
Martin O'Neill's fate was sealed on these shores last November. This trip might prove to be a pivotal moment in the tenure of his successor.