Wednesday 11 December 2019

'We can beat anyone in the playoffs' - Mick McCarthy issues rallying cry after spirited Irish effort

Mick McCarthy is hoping for a repeat of Ireland's performance against Denmark in the Euro 2020 playoffs. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mick McCarthy is hoping for a repeat of Ireland's performance against Denmark in the Euro 2020 playoffs. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

IRELAND boss Mick McCarthy has insisted that his side can still make next summer’s European Championships despite blowing their chance at home to Denmark as the sides’ latest stalemate ensured the visitors joined Switzerland as automatic Group D qualifiers.

"I’ve just told them that if we’re in a play-off and play like that, we’ll win it," said the boss, who declared that he could not have asked for anything more from his side.

"We can beat anyone in the playoffs."

And his Danish rival Age Hareide agreed.  "We were lucky to get the draw. If they continue to play like that, they will come through the play-offs."

Martin Braithwaite’s 73rd minute stunned an expectant Aviva Stadium crowd into silence before a rousing conclusion produced an 85th minute leveller for Matt Doherty, who atoned for his earlier defensive error.

"I need to apologise because I had a go at him for the goal that we conceded but forgot to congratulate him on getting the goal,” said a rueful McCarthy who was still stinging from the concession of that "terrible" goal which had undermined a positive display from the home side.

"I thought it was a terrific performance. We played well and competed well. I’m really proud of them, especially after going 1-0 down.

"I said if they give everything for me, I’ll take that so I have to take the result and the result is the only thing I’m disappointed about.

"We’d played well until their concession but we’ve seen three times now in this group the mayhem that we can cause when another team is trying to hold on to the lead."

Ireland missed several chances to take the lead as their goal-shy campaign continued; Doherty’s was only the seventh goal of the series.

"Quite clearly we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal," admitted the manager, whose choice of attacking subs were limited after being forced to use a defensive sub at half-time when John Egan was forced off with a head injury.

Nevertheless, McCarthy is confident that his team can thrive in the play-offs, the draw for which will take place in Nyon this Friday.

Ireland must win two ties against possible opponents Bosnia, Wales, Slovakia or Northern Ireland.

"I’ve three months to prepare for that now," said McCarthy, who will welcome back Seamus Coleman from suspension albeit goal-scorer Doherty’s strong performance will cause a selection headache.

"We’ll see who we get and plan when we get that far. We can beat other teams."

McCarthy refused to be drawn on previous poor displays in the group which ensured they remained outside the top two qualifications spots.

"I’m here to talk about this performance and this game. I’ve not disappointed with any of the performances.

"I don’t know why we can’t play well in every game. Maybe they were a bit cautious tonight, probably."

His counterpart agreed, Hareide adding, "We were nervous, we didn’t play well but when we scored that eased the pressure.

"But then Ireland had to gamble and they threw a lot of men forward. We didn’t counter-attack how we wanted."

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