McCarthy knows Denmark draw leaves Ireland with a real chance
James Collins one of a number of players hoping to get a look in against Bulgaria
Luton Town striker James Collins at the FAI National Training Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Mick McCarthy’s side will now head there next month knowing that if they can do better than their qualification rivals and secure all three points then either two draws or one win in their remaining two qualifying matches will be enough to earn them a place at next summer’s European Championships.
The Georgia game will be far from easy for the Irish who have had a few close scrapes in the recent past against the side currently manager by Vladimir Weiss, but winning there always looked to be a necessary step on the team’s prospective route to the finals.
Denmark slipping up means Ireland doing the same would not necessarily now be fatal to their prospects, but in the event that they can win then McCarthy’s men will go into their remaining two games – Switzerland in Geneva three days later then Denmark at home the following month – in about as strong a position as they could reasonably have hoped for, especially after Thursday’s night’s home draw.
The Danes, whose manager Age Hareide missed the game through illness, had much the better of things in Tbilisi, at least until the closing stages. The visitors enjoying 60 per cent of the possession and managing six chances on target to just one. However, it was still a somewhat unconvincing performance by their standards.
Having watched the game with the Ireland players at the team hotel, McCarthy insisted that it was Georgia’s performance that had actually been key.
“I was listening to the commentary and at the end of the match they were making out that Denmark had fluffed their lines,” he said afterwards. “I don’t agree.
“Georgia are a good team, they were playing at home and the result just highlights for me how hard it is to go away and win in this group. Georgia might even have won it when they put that free-kick straight at [Kasper] Schmeichel at the death. There were a few shouts around the room here when that happened.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he added, “I’m delighted it was a draw, but the onus is still on us to go out there now and pick up points in October.”
Before then Ireland take on Bulgaria – they were beaten 4-0 by England over the weekend – in Tuesday’s friendly international at the Aviva, where Luton Town striker James Collins is one of a number of players hoping to get a look in from McCarthy.
The 28-year-old’s family will travel over for the game in the hope that he gets to make his senior international debut, and that if he does it goes even half as well as his under-21 one when he scored a hat-trick against Liechtenstein.
Collins, who has three goals in the six games he has played for his club so far this season, insists that he does not know whether he will get a run out but he is hopeful.
“With the game being a friendly it’s a massive opportunity for players who’ve not got minutes to play. It is the gaffer’s decision, but I don’t think he would have brought me in if he wasn’t thinking about giving me the chance of being involved.”
Collins’ inclusion in the squad has been at the expense of Shane Long, and the Coventry-born player was quick to pay tribute to the Southampton star’s achievements. However, he said he could only seize whatever opportunities come his way.
“The decision is not mine. It is down to the gaffer. What Shane has done in his career for his clubs and Ireland is far greater than what I have done, but if I get a chance then it’s up to me to take it.”