McCarthy would have taken position at start of campaign

“After being down to 10 men for the last 15 minutes I think they can be really proud”

Mick McCarthy admitted after the 2-0 defeat here that Ireland had been second best to Switzerland. But with his team still one game away from a place at the European Championships he maintained that "at the start of the campaign, I'd have taken that."

“The first half performance was poor,” he said, “the second half was considerably better. And after being down to 10 men for the last 15 minutes I think they (his players) can be really proud of the way they performed in that time.”

The Ireland manager conceded that the changes he had made to the system beforehand, the switch to a 3-5-2 formation, had not worked in the way he had hoped and said he had moved to change things early on in an attempt to improve. It was, he said, something that had been intended to be positive with Aaron Connolly included as one of two strikers but, he concluded, "we were better after we went back to 4-3-3.

“I don’t think the system contributed to our inability to pass the ball to each other,” he said. “The fact that they had a very good side was the major contributory factor.”


As for the 19-year-old Connolly, who had a difficult night on what his first start for the senior team, McCarthy seemed confident that there will be much better to come for and from him over the years ahead. “It was difficult for him,” he said, “but he was playing against a team that had the ball most of the time and he didn’t get much of it; we didn’t give him much supply or service.

"But he will be better for it, he will learn from it. I gave Kevin Kilbane his debut in Iceland and I think I took him off at half-time but he went on to make something like 120 appearances. So he'll be okay, he's got nothing to worry about."

For Swiss manager Vladimir Petkovic it was a 13th win in an unbeaten run of 15 qualifying games at home and it puts his side back in a very strong position to push on and secure qualification.

The 56-year-old admitted that his side, when just a single goal up and facing an Irish side that was desperate to get itself back into things, found itself on the back foot for a bit, but he said, they had coped well and deserved their win.

“We created many chances,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t take full advantage. We controlled a game against very good opponents. They caused us some problems and in the second half and we probably pulled back from them too much but in the end I am delighted with the outcome.

“The first goal was very, very important to us. It showed that we could fight and we showed a lot of fight tonight. In the second half we had some problems but we fought very hard, we pressed very high and in the end we got the second goal.”

Asked how he thinks the group might now finish after tonight’s games, he replied: “Demark, Switzerland and then Ireland, I would think the most likely top three,” giving every indication that he meant in that order.