Mick McCarthy stresses positives ahead of Danish showdown
Special performance will be required if Republic of Ireland are to win at the Aviva
Mick McCarthy: “We’ll just have to continue doing what we’re doing and see if we can score more goals than we have. But one will do if we don’t let one in.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Republic of Ireland v Denmark Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm
On TV: RTÉ 2, Sky Sports Mix
Having worked its way into just about every other aspect of the modern world, the recent record of games between Ireland and Denmark is a handy example of how football might be employed as a quick and easy way to assess personality types.
Trying to determine whether you are a part of the glass half full or empty brigade? Just ask yourself whether the four draws these two have played out in five games leaves you thinking in terms of an evenly balanced but winnable qualifier at the Aviva this evening. Or does the scale of the....actually, do you know what? Perhaps it’s better not to go there.
The 5-1 drubbing two years ago has certainly cast a shadow over the three meetings since and though Shane Duffy claimed the players only think of it now when members of the press ask about it, the first thing he seemed to recall when his captaincy for tonight’s game came up in conversation was that he had ended up getting the armband that night too, after all the goals had already been scored. The Derryman would have done well to draw much consolation from that.
This, he clearly hopes, will be a very different occasion and the 27-year-old speaks of having dreamed “10 different dreams of scoring the winner and celebrating”. It seems at least one of those might have been from the halfway line, which is surely the point where the conversation starts to part company with reality.
Mick McCarthy, as ever, is rooted firmly in reality and he has, just for the record, done an awful lot more referencing of the four draws than the one defeat these past few days.
The Danes, he acknowledges will have come believing they will not be beaten and though his players will set out to prove them wrong there will be no new magic formula or transformation.
“We’ll just have to continue doing what we’re doing and see if we can score more goals than we have. But one will do if we don’t let one in.”
If that does not necessarily make the whole thing sound all that enticing as a spectacle, well, it should at least be exciting again.
Age Hareide’s side scored as many over the weekend as Ireland have through the whole campaign but honours have been even in those last three encounters between the two sides and McCarthy has a point when he suggests that the visitors might have nicked the win late on in Copenhagen at the start of the summer.
There will be at least a couple of changes here to that Irish line-up with Séamus Coleman and Richard Keogh absent (although both have been around the camp these past few days) through suspension and injury respectively but Hareide, who said on Sunday that his players’ dislike of facing Ireland can be taken as sign of their respect, is expected to make five unforced alterations to a side that secured that 6-0 victory on Friday with the Norwegian looking to counter what he sees as one of the home side’s physicality by bringing in a bit more muscle of his own.
Hareide’s tone was cautious at his press conference, his demeanour confident but McCarthy seemed entirely at ease with the respective levels of expectation as he mulled things over before training on Sunday.
The approach he will take is pretty well established at this stage with the team expected to exert a good deal more pressure a little farther up the field than it generally did under Martin O’Neill and ideally pass the pass an awful lot better than they did in Geneva. But they will have to strike the balance between that and containing what has looked an impressive attacking unit, one built around Christian Eriksen.
The fear is that the defensive side of things will require by far the greater part of their focus but if they can keep the Danes at bay McCarthy is adamant that they will trouble the visitors too.
With David McGoldrick sure to return up front and Alan Browne probably still a fraction ahead of Conor Hourihane in the midfield pecking order, it seems, the biggest call he would appear to have on his hands is with respect to the right hand side of Ireland’s front line.
There are perhaps up to half a dozen contenders, all of them with a case for inclusion but none with anything like an unanswerable one. The manager has given little away but what he has said has tended to discount the most obvious candidates and after a decent second-half showing against the Swiss, Callum O’Dowda might just get the nod.
Ireland are now guaranteed the fall back of a play-off come March but the position McCarthy and his players find themselves in tonight is actually fractionally less promising than it seemed to be ahead of the game in November two years ago in that there would be no extra time or penalties if it all remains scoreless.
This Ireland team has occasionally shown itself capable of achieving a very big result in recent years and McCarthy seems happy to be judged on whether he can coax another one out of it now. If he does, the most likely victory, given the team’s poor strike-rate, is surely 1-0 and so conceding would be an enormous setback.
Ultimately, Duffy says, after the dreaming is done, “you’ve got to come back down to earth and say, right, you’ve got to go out and do it.”.
That might just pass as an Irish mission statement.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (Middlesbrough); Doherty (Wolves), Duffy (Brighton), Egan (Sheffield United), Stevens (Sheffield United); Hendrick (Burnley), Whelan (Hearts), Browne (Preston); O’Dowda (Bristol City), McGoldrick (Sheffield United), McClean (Stoke City).
Denmark: Schmeichel (Leicester City); Dalsgaard (Brentford), Christensen (Chelsea), Kjaer (Atalanta), Larsen (Udinese); Delaney (Borussia Dortmund), Hojbjerg (Southampton); Poulsen (RB Leipzig), Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur), Braithwaite (Leganes); Cornelius (Parma).
Referee: F Brych (Germany).