Monday 22 January 2018

McCarthy tackles steep learning curve on opening night

James McCarthy earns a penalty after being fouled by Martin Cacedes
James McCarthy earns a penalty after being fouled by Martin Cacedes
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

James McCarthy is sure to have more illustrious nights than this one in the green of Ireland, but his adaptation to international football continued with something of a lesson at the Aviva Stadium.

Uruguay were by no means perfect themselves last night, but the values of keeping possession, holding your position and never switching off in the international game were there for Giovanni Trapattoni's young side, who will no doubt learn from this experience.

That they fought hard and never gave up was something to build on, but for prodigious attacking midfielder McCarthy, of whom so much has been said and written in recent weeks, there is still some building to be done.

And it's not all about him. Trapattoni has said he needs time if he is to readapt his system to accommodate the Glaswegian. Last night the evidence was there that he has a point.

Operating between the two holding midfielders -- Paul Green and Keith Fahey -- and the hard-running Shane Long up front in a loose 4-2-3-1 formation, he was all too often rendered peripheral.

Long kicks from Keiren Westwood sailed over his head as Long battled with Diego Lugano, while the breaking balls flew the wrong way for the young man hoping to get on to them.


When Ireland went through midfield, McCarthy chose to take up positions close to the Uruguayan sitters Edigio Arevalo and Diego Perez, and although he trusted himself to be able to hold them off and lay the ball to a team-mate, his fellow men in green often chose the safer option.

He was visibly frustrated at one stage of the first half when he burst into the box and was ignored in turn by Long and Fahey, and later went back for a word with the central midfielders in an effort to convince them to pick him out.

The lessons continued as the Uruguayans twice swept up the field for goals and when he finally got a sniff of possession in the box, McCarthy was snuffed out by one of the goalscorers -- Edinson Cavani -- the left-sided forward who had tracked all the way back.

His most significant contribution came in winning the penalty for Fahey to tuck the ball away, but the Wigan player was then hauled off with 24 minutes remaining.

Compared to Michel Platini by his manager in midweek, Ireland's newest star has had a remarkable week. Last night was quiet, but the question of his nationality has been put to bed and he and the team can build from here.

It wasn't a particularly auspicious first start, but the experience will stand to him and from such beginnings can great things grow.

Irish Independent

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