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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 21 April 2021


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Good afternoon everybody and welcome along to our minute-by-minute liveblog of tonight’s highly-awaited, much-anticipated opening game of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Today Mick McCarthy takes charge of his first game as Ireland boss in 17 years. Time flies, doesn’t it? There may be a few more grey hairs but the general consensus is that Mick is the man for the job if Ireland are to successfully make it to next summer’s championships.

There has been so much talk and build-up since McCarthy was appointed to succeed Martin O’Neill back in November. Poor Mick has been put through the ringer in terms of interviews and media appearances over the last four months, but the time for talking is finally over.

Ireland have beaten today’s opponents 4-0 and 7-0 in recent meetings and another strong win is expected to be on the cards at Victoria Stadium ahead of Tuesday’s tricky meeting with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium.

Kick-off is coming up in just over an hour’s time at 5.00pm, with today’s game live on Sky Sports and RTÉ 2 if you happen to be near a TV.

Let’s get started with the team news…

TEAM NEWS: There are few surprises as Mick McCarthy picks his first team for his second spell in charge of the national team.

Both Matt Doherty and Seamus Coleman start, with the Everton defender alongside Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh and Enda Stevens in defence and Darren Randolph in goal.

Doherty lines up on the right side of midfield, James McClean on the left and Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick in the centre.

Sean Maguire makes his first competitive start for Ireland, partnering David McGoldrick up top.

The only slight surprise may be Keogh over John Egan in defence, with the Derby centre back currently nursing a broken hand.

Ireland: Darren Randolph, Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Enda Stevens; Matt Doherty, Jeff Hendrick, Conor Hourihane, James McClean; Sean Maguire, David McGoldrick.

Substitutes: Keiren Westwood, Mark Travers, Glenn Whelan, Robbie Brady, Jack Byrne, Aiden O’Brien, John Egan, James Collins, Alan Judge, Josh Cullen, Shane Long, Harry Arter.

Gibraltar: Kyle Goldwin, Joseph Chipolina, John Sergeant, Louie Annesley, Lee Casciaro, Anthony Bardon, Liam Walker, Jayce Olivero, Roy Chipolina, Anthony Hernandez, Tjay De Barr

Substitutes: Matt Cafer, Dayle Coleing, Jean-Carlos Garcia, Ethan Jolley, Reece Styche, Alain Pons, Erin Barnett, Aymen Mouelhi, Andrew Hernandez, Ethan Britto, Jamie Coombes, Adam Priestley

A little over half an hour to go before we get underway at Winston Churchill Avenue. Gibraltar are currently the lowest ranked side in European qualification, so anything less than a win for Mick McCarthy’s men would be quite the upset. How do we see this afternoon’s game going? Let us know below.

Poll Results:

Ireland win (160)
Gibraltar win (58)
Draw (33)

Our man on the (plastic astroturf) ground Gavin Cooney has been soaking up all the cultural hotspots Gibraltar has to offer over the last few days. There’s the Rock, the stadium, the airport and… eh, that might be the extent of it actually.

“While much has been made of the artificial pitch,” Gavin writes, “none of it, it must be said, by the manager – it is ferociously windy, with the 2,300-capacity Victoria Stadium sitting by the airport runway and at the base of the Rock.

“While there are stands running alongside the length of the pitch, there is no seating behind either goal. Instead, there’s an ‘Airport End’ and a ‘Rock End’, the latter a pretty spectacular sight.

“McCarthy’s team should eventually make light of all of this, though, and by Saturday night the football teams should be comfortably separated. Ireland and Gibraltar, however, are two places united by anxiety as to what happens next.”

You can read Gavin’s letter from Gibraltar in its entirety here.

Plenty of excellent pre-game reading material to dig into before kick-off:

What the manager’s have said…

Julio César Ribas: “It’s absolutely amazing for us to play at home once again. This is where we live, this is where we play, this is where most of our players have grown up.

“This is the air we breathe and this is where we want to play our football. It is amazing to play at home in front of our home fans, and we want to please them as much as we can.”

“We have a very young squad and we are very eager to get going.”

Mick McCarthy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Mick McCarthy: “I’m sick of talking about it. I’m just looking forward to getting playing now. It’s been four months, I’ve been everywhere, I’ve spoken to everyone.

“I’m really looking forward to playing. The first training session, I wasn’t happy with the amount of chances that we were creating, or players getting in the box.

“TC put a great session on exactly for that, on the third day, and we gave them the feedback on the night, just to showed the difference between how you can do it.

“We have worked on it, and that’s pretty much all you can do; give players information in terms of wanting people to get in the box, putting crosses in the box, however you get in there.

“Just try and create more chances and have more bodies there, on the move, and trying to score if we create we chances, and hopefully we do.”

The players are out on the pitch, the anthems have been belted out despite the increasingly windy conditions and we’re just about ready to get started. A new era of Irish football gets underway — how exciting!


That strong gale wind could play a big role today as Shane Duffy’s early hoofed ball is caught and dragged back down to earth fairly rapidly. Soon afterwards Gibraltar pile on some early pressure, Liam Walker getting a powerful shot off from close range before Duffy gets in the way with a much-needed block.


A second chance in quick succession for the hosts. Liam Walker takes command of a free-kick from 25 yards out and curls a decent effort which flies just over the top of Darren Randolph’s crossbar. Good start by Gibraltar, you have to admit.


A moment of comic relief as an aeroplane takes off a matter of metres behind Randolph’s goal. The noise of the jet can be heard all over the stadium, a harsh deafening sound which drowns out the crowd for a brief few seconds.

Anthony Bardon with Jeff Hendrick and David McGoldrick Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Now then, Ireland at last get the ball up the other end of the pitch for the first time this afternoon. Sean Maguire and Seamus Coleman exchange possession down the right before a cross into the box is headed clear — David McGoldrick has a swipe with a volley, but it goes over the bar.


Gibraltar more than making a game of this so far. A Walker corner is fizzed into the box towards the front post looking for Louie Annesley and Roy Chipolina, but Shane Duffy is first to meet it with a strong headed clearance.


Close to a breakthrough for Ireland following a scramble inside the box. Conor Hourihane’s corner causes a moment of panic which Richard Keogh takes advantage of, stabbing a weak effort towards goal off the ground. He hits the target, but the shot is easily caught by goalkeeper Kyle Goldwin.

Ireland fans hold a banner in protest of FAI Chief Executive John Delaney Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Close again for Ireland. Hourihane sends a dangerous free-kick into the box — it threatens to be knocked, bumped, headed or edged into the back of the net, but no-one in white can get anything on it, as the ball sweeps wide of Goldwin’s righthand post.


Ireland starting to get the ball down on the deck now. Jeff Hendrick whips a through ball directed towards Sean Maguire with his back to goal, but the Preston forward is outmuscled by Joseph Chipolina, who boots the ball clear. Both Maguire and McGoldrick yet to make a serious impact inside 20 minutes you’d say.


Gibraltar are forcing Ireland to work hard right now. The Irish midfield strings passes to and fro deep inside the opposition half led by Hendrick and Hourihane, but a stray ball sees Seamus Coleman lose a battle alongside Jayce Olivero — he reads the danger and clears.

Matt Doherty with Jayce Olivero Source: James Crombie/INPHO


It’s been a slightly frustrating opening to this game, it had to be said. A microcosm of that frustration comes when a long ball down the left wing bounces and bobble out of play for a goal kick, James McClean failing to reach it after the wind caught the ball mid-flight.


Almost close again for Ireland. Hourihane’s corner is poorly headed by Sean Maguire but Matt Doherty is on hand at the back post to try and steer it home. Maguire’s header is unpredictable, though, and the Wolves defender fails to bring it under control and can only head wide.


Save! Kyle Goldwin comes to the rescue for Gibraltar as the half-hour mark approaches. A defensive lapse sees the ball fall on a plate to Seamus Coleman down the right. He skips a dangerous cross into the box which defender Roy Chipolina tries to head back to his keeper. But it’s an absolutely awful header and one which could easily have ended up as an own goal, but for a super stop from Goldwin to tip the ball over for a corner.

Matt Doherty and Jeff Hendrick with Anthony Bardon Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Ireland are really upping the tempo now, but there’s still no goal to speak of. A comfortable, perhaps sizeable win was expected approaching this game, but maybe it’s still a little early to be getting worried about the scoreline. Plenty more football to be played with a little under 15 minutes to go before half-time.


A promising attack down the right from Gibraltar. A long, hoofed ball over the top of the Ireland defence sets forward Lee Casciaro free in space looking to get a cross into the box. But James McClean does really well to put him under pressure *cue song* and force Casciaro to put the ball out for a goal-kick to Darren Randolph.


Mick McCarthy’s men have enjoyed 71 per cent possession so far, but still no breakthrough. To their credit, players like David McGoldrick, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane have worked tirelessly inside this opening half to try and get some attacking intent going, but Gibraltar have completely nullified Ireland thus far. The wind, you have to say, has been Man of the Match. Playing an absolute blinder and a serious aerial threat.

Mick McCarthy Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Close! David McGoldrick is inches away from breaking the deadlock. A Seamus Coleman cross into the box has the Sheffield United striker’s name all over it, but a crucial defensive interception from Jack Sergeant clears the ball off the line.


Very nearly again for Ireland, and how there hasn’t been a goal yet is a complete mystery. This time it’s Conor Hourihane who almost finds the back of the net, but the ball skips across goal, narrowly missing the target and falling the wrong side of Goldwin’s post by the slimmest of margins. How close can you get.


Play is forced into a pause because there are two balls on the pitch. It’s been that sort of a half for Ireland so far. There’s been lots of decent attacking play, creating more than enough chances to be at least a goal ahead. But that crucial breakthrough has been lacking, that one piece of quality right when it’s needed in front of goal. As stupidly simple as it sounds, Ireland just cannot get the ball in the back of the Gibraltar net. Close over and over again, but no cigar.

Anthony Hernandez and Seamus Coleman Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Flag 45Mins


There we are now, 45 minutes into the McCarthy 2.0 Era. As alluded to, it’s been a frustrating game of sorts for Ireland so far. You cannot deny that the strong wind at the Victoria Stadium has been a big factor in deterring good football being played, but it won’t be an acceptable excuse come full-time.

There have been chances aplenty to try and nick the lead, but Gibraltar are holding their own and hanging in there. David McGoldrick, Matt Doherty and Conor Hourihane have all come close, but it remains scoreless at the break.

More action to come shortly!


Save! Good Lord, that was close. Roy Chipolina holds his head in his hands and doesn’t know how Gibraltar aren’t ahead. The skipper rises high like a salmon fresh out of water and steers a superb header down towards the bottom corner. Darren Randolph reads it well and produces an absolutely sublime stop to keep it all square. That was a serious scare.

Flag 49Mins


Ireland take the lead! After that scare from Chipolina’s header, the visitors head down the other end via an excellent break to go ahead. David McGoldrick cuts into the box and pulls the ball back selflessly, with Jeff Hendrick arriving at just the right moment to pass the ball elegantly into the bottom corner. We have the first goal of Mick McCarthy’s second tenure in charge.


That’s just what Mick McCarthy would have wanted, an early goal right at the start of the second half to calm his sides nerves. It was an underwhelming opening half, but with McGoldrick’s brilliant pullback and a composed finish from Hendrick, Ireland lead at last.


Gibraltar seem very frustrated by Hendrick’s opener and fly down the other end to try and equalise right away. Liam Walker has a go with that dangerous left foot of his from the guts of 30 yards out, but his curled strike flies over the top of Randolph’s crossbar.


There are shouts for a penalty from the contingent of Ireland supporters. Seamus Coleman goes down under the challenge of Anthony Hernandez inside the box following a coming together, but referee Anastasios Papapetrou waves play on.


Substitution for Ireland: Robbie Brady replaces Matt Doherty.

Matt Doherty and Jayce Olivero Source: James Crombie/INPHO


Shane Duffy goes down injured inside the Gibraltar box. The Brighton defender stayed up for a corner but took a nasty blow after swinging for the ball and clashing with the leg of Joseph Chipolina. Duffy receives some medical attention and seems okay to continue.


Robbie Brady appears to be a like-for-like switch for Matt Doherty, who enjoyed a productive first game in midfield. Brady lines up on the right wing, with James McClean remaining on the left.

Jeff Hendrick celebrates scoring his sides first goal Jeff Hendrick celebrates giving Ireland the lead against Gibraltar. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


An error at the back gives Gibraltar a decent chance to draw level. Lee Casciaro bears down on goal as Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh scramble back into position, but the forward’s curled effort aimed at Darren Randolph’s bottom corner flies the wrong side of the post. A lucky escape there.


Julio César Ribas is imploring his men to go forward in search of an equaliser. They have held their own to a certain degree in this game given the side’s limited nature and do look somewhat menacing via Casciaro and Hernandez on the flanks. Ireland won’t be content to sit on this one-goal lead with 25 minutes to go.


Sean Maguire battles on the edge of the box and succeeds in earning a corner kick. The Preston forward hasn’t had the desired impact he would have wanted this evening, but he has put in a shift up top. That first international goal still to come for the 24-year-old.

Sean Maguire with Roy Chipolina Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Substitution for Ireland: Harry Arter replaces Sean Maguire.


Close, very, very close for Gibraltar. Liam Walker sizes up a shot from the edge of the box and smacks an intriguing effort. Thankfully for Ireland his shot is blocked by the outstretched leg of Richard Keogh. His block does enough to take the sting out of it, with Darren Randolph catching with relative ease off his line.


The clock is slowly ticking away now as both sides continue to nullify one another. Gibraltar seem a bit energy-sapped with Liam Walker still their sole creative threat when in possession. Harry Arter has added that bit more control and composure in midfield to try and see this game out.

Robbie Brady with Tjay De Barr Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Walker has another go at goal. He beats James McClean with a clever drop of the should on the edge of the box, but his shot is right at Darren Randolph, who palms the ball down into the ground before gathering.


Conor Hourihane delivers another corner into the mixer, Ireland’s seventh of the evening. It very nearly ends up in the back of the Gibraltar net actually, with goalkeeper Kyle Goldwin forced to punch the ball clear standing on his goal-line.

Five minutes to go and Gibraltar are still pressing for a late leveller here. Ireland have largely been in control throughout the second half, but a one-goal lead is far from an ideal situation as the hosts send men forward to try and snatch a share of the spoils here.

David McGoldrick with Joseph Chipolina Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Second half substitute Adam Priestley tries to latch onto a through ball close to goal, but Shane Duffy does really well to read the danger early, use his body well and outmuscle his opponent before feeding the ball back to Randolph. Composed defending when it’s needed.


Close! At the other end Duffy is a matter of inches away from putting this game to bed. Conor Hourihane’s free-kick into the box finds the Brighton centre back completely free directly in front of goal, but the Derry man’s header flies just wide.


There will be three minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half.

Into stoppage time now and the three points are within touching distance for Mick McCarthy now. It hasn’t been the high-scoring victory many were anticipating against such a low-ranked opponent, but a win is a win when you can get it. A couple of minutes remaining with Ireland in control of the ball to try and see this out.

James McClean attempts a shot Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO



And breath… Ireland leave Gibraltar with the three points they came for. It wasn’t a convincing performance and a long way off the 4-0 victory that was secured four years ago, but a win is a win.

A frustrating opening half impeded by that strong wind at the Victoria Stadium was followed by a more encouraging display after the break. Jeff Hendrick’s second international goal was the difference, as Mick McCarthy’s second tenure in charge gets up and running with a win.

Thanks a million for joining us for the evening — you can read Gavin Cooney’s match report from on the ground in Gibraltar here and you can also find Paul Fennessey’s player ratings here. Next up Ireland face Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night. Catch you then!

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Aaron Gallagher


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