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Plenty to admire in Ireland's effort but lack of quality in the box the killer again

David McGoldrick was unsurprisingly named man of the match but he failed to show a killer instinct in front of goal.

enda-stevens-reacts-to-a-missed-chance Enda Stevens reacts to a late missed chance. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES into familiar territory for the Republic of Ireland.

Play-offs will now decide Mick McCarthy’s fate as manager in his second term.

There was one final push for glory when Matt Doherty provided hope with an 85th-minute equaliser, but this was a night when Ireland’s limitations once again were laid bare.

There is no shame in that.

For large periods here Ireland were the better team and played with a verve and intensity to be admired. Ireland required one goal to stand any chance of automatic qualification.

Denmark needed only one shot on target to end those fanciful hopes.

Martin Braithwaite’s 73rd minute strike was the visitors’ first opportunity on target. It was all they needed to break Irish hearts.

The night ended with a mixture of mayhem and panic engulfing Aviva Stadium. But Ireland could not find a way through again to send Dublin 4 – and beyond – into raptures.

Ireland fans would have arrived in hope rather than expectation and, as the minutes ticked by here, belief would have grown.

republic-of-ireland-v-denmark-uefa-euro-2020-qualifying-group-d-aviva-stadium Fans at the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying match this evening at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Niall Carson

But there was no hero for Ireland on a night with the Euros within touching distance, and this was not the occasion for Troy Parrott to see his name in lights. His full debut in the friendly with New Zealand on Thursday provided a glimpse of his promise but we will have to wait for the days ahead under manager-in-waiting Stephen Kenny to get a true sense of his ability.

Euro 2020 remains a distant dream when scoring more than once in a game against quality opposition remains so difficult.

It’s not that Ireland have a reluctant hero in their ranks, they simply don’t have the quality where it really matters; the final third.

David McGoldrick was named man of the match by the official sponsors in the stadium and there would have been few who would grumble at the award.

The 31-year-old is by far Ireland’s most accomplished forward; he is clever in possession, precise with his passing and has a pristine first touch.

His deft back header for Alan Browne to whizz a shot just wide in the first half was sublime. It’s just a shame he hasn’t got that instinct in the box.

He does so much good work outside, but it’s inside the penalty area where the difference is made.

As Braithwaite showed.

With the game approaching its final quarter, the Danish attacker provided a clinical reminder of the fine margins.

One man sitting on the Ireland bench would surely have appreciated the craft to his finish. It was straight out of Robbie Keane scoring playbook, one he turned the page on 68 times.

Keane had taken on the role of cheerleader-in-chief over the weekend.

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Ireland’s record goal scorer is now, of course, part of Mick McCarthy’s coaching staff, and he spoke rousingly as he leaned on the emotion of the occasion to inspire those players under his guidance.

seamus-keogh Absent stars: Seamus Coleman and Richard Keogh on the bench. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Keane called for someone to make themselves a hero. He spoke of the players’ childhood dreams, their reasons for falling in love with a game that, once you reach this level, is far removed from the romanticised version this Ireland starting XI would remember.

Only David McGoldrick was not raised on this island. There were men from Wicklow, Dublin, Derry, Kerry and Cork in a dark shade of green. But when the golden goal was needed it was the Danes who struck, having seemed content with a goalless draw.

When they lost midfielder Thomas Delaney and striker Andreas Cornelius through injury inside the opening 33 minutes they became even more resolute in their approach.

You could hardly blame them. The onus was Ireland to probe and find a way through. Six goals in their previous seven Group D games a firm indication of how difficult a task that would be.

Ireland’s best opportunity of the first-half fell to Conor Hourihane 11 minutes before half-time. It arrived by luck rather than design. McGoldrick’s pass inside from the right wing was meant for Alan Browne but the forward over-hit it and the advancing Hourihane somehow found himself in the box with the ball at his feet.

He opened his body so as to connect with favoured left foot but the shot was tame and easily collected by a grateful Kasper Schmeichel.

McGoldrick flashed a half volley over the bar in the 67th minute and just seconds later McCarthy opted for fresh attacking verve with the introduction of Callum Robinson.

He seemed bamboozled by the madness which was to follow and, ultimately, there will be more to come with the play-offs.

About the author:

David Sneyd  / Reports from the Aviva Stadium

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