Ireland know it’s do-or-die against the Danes; Gordon D’Arcy on how to beat the All Blacks
The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team
Ireland’s Jeff Hendrick, John Egan and Enda Stevens dejected as Switzerland celebrate their second goal during the Euro 2020 qualifier. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
And so it all comes down to the Danes in Dublin. When the fixtures came out for Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign the sneaking suspicion was always there that the final fixture on November 18th would be make-or-break. And so it is to be. Last night’s 2-0 defeat to Switzerland in Geneva was Ireland’s first loss of the campaign and came on a disappointing night which also saw Séamus Coleman receive a red card, meaning he will miss the final match against Denmark. It’s now backs against the wall time for Ireland if Mick McCarthy is to lead them to next summer’s tournament, reports Emmet Malone from Geneva. The Ireland manager did change his system from the one that played out a drab 0-0 draw against Georgia in Tbilisi last Saturday by bringing in Aaron Connolly, Alan Browne and Enda Stevens. However, as Ken Early writes, that 3-5-2 system did not go to plan as Ireland looked a bit like a team trying out a new formation in a pre-season friendly on a boggy pitch. After the game McCarthy remained adamant that he would have taken this position at the start of the campaign and, given that Ireland have never qualified for a major tournament before the final game, it’s difficult to argue with him but the fact remains that Ireland have scored just six goals in seven qualifying matches with three of them coming against Gibraltar. It certainly wasn’t the most inspiring performance last night and that reflects in the player ratings handed out by Malachy Clerkin.
So it won’t be a double header of Irish success this week and now the focus turns to the rugby team as the clock ticks ever closer to Saturday morning and the heavyweight quarter-final showdown against the All Blacks. Gordon D’Arcy never managed to beat the best team in the world during his time as an Ireland player but he did come mighty close and knows exactly how their weaknesses can be targetted if Ireland are to pull this off. “I know what Johnny, Pete and Rory will be like. Rob and Cian too. These are men who between them have won and done it all in rugby. Well, everything but play in a World Cup semi-final. Not all of them are going to make it. Sacrifice is needed,” he writes.