McCarthy unlikely to make wholesale changes for Gibraltar test

Ireland will stay at the top of Group D with a win at the Aviva tomorrow night.

MICK MCCARTHY SAYS he doesn’t agree with the sense he should make a swathe of changes for tomorrow night’s Euro 2020 qualifier with Gibraltar at the Aviva Stadium. 

Mick McCarthy Mick McCarthy faces the media. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Irish boss didn’t tweak his line-up at all between the March win over Georgia and last Friday’s draw with Denmark, the first time Ireland had been unchanged in successive matches since Euro 2016.

Given the standard of tomorrow night’s opposition, along with the fact McCarthy’s 25-man squad have been together for three weeks, it might have been expected that he would bring a few new faces into the fold. 

That doesn’t look likely to be the case. 

“I don’t get the sense that there should be wholesale changes”, McCarthy told his pre-match press conference. 

“The lads who have won two games and drawn one and played ever so well, I’m not in the habit of saying, ‘All right, scattergun approach and we’ll give somebody a game’.

“We’ve got to beat these. I want what I think is the best team on the pitch. I know I have got adequate replacements, good replacements, for the ones who have been playing, but they have been excellent.” 

McCarthy was customarily coy on the couple of changes he might make – “players on the pitch” was his response when asked what areas he might look to refresh – while Glenn Whelan’s involvement in a second game in four days is by no means out of the question.

Josh Cullen Josh Cullen. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


Josh Cullen has been doused with praise by the Irish boss over the last couple of weeks, but McCarthy was non-committal when asked if the midfielder is in line for his first senior cap. 

“Josh has been excellent and he’s made a real valid case to get a game. But then you could argue that the midfield players have been as good as any part of the team – certainly Glenn Whelan has when he’s played, he’s been excellent; Conor scored the winner [against Georgia], Jeff scored the winner [against Gibraltar], so making a case for him is fine, but he’s making a case for himself up against some really good players.” 

While the nature of the draw in Copenhagen means it is cast in a kind of ecstatic glow, the Irish manager acknowledged he needed to see some improvements from his team.

“When we win the ball back high up the pitch, keeping it, not giving it straight back to them, which we did on a lot of occasions.

I spoke about it at half time and I spoke about it since. I don’t know whether it is a rush to score a goal, but you go from that crash, bang, wallop mentality to get the ball back, which you must have, then to calming down and passing the ball to each other. So I thought we did the first bit really well, and the second bit, not as well as I like. But we were playing against a team that also went closing the ball down as well.

“And if you look at the two stats in terms of how far and how hard and the sprints that both teams ran, it was a real competitive game.” 

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Ireland began this campaign with a win away to Gibraltar, a forgettable and frayed 1-0 win on a plastic pitch at the windswept foot of the rock.

Conditions will be more favourable tonight, although McCarthy acknowledged that playing at home under the expectation of a win poses a different kind of challenge. 

“Of course it is. That doesn’t affect the spirit in the camp, the spirit was evident when we equalised late on against a very good side.

“But it is different, as we saw in Gibraltar. We saw how stubborn they were, they have got strengths on corners and free-kicks; Darren Randolph’s magnificent save came from a corner-kick.

“So we have to be careful. I’ve just been saying to them, I’ve loved the three weeks together with the lads, they’ve been brilliant.

“They have trained great, everything has been good about it but it will all count for nothing unless we win our home game.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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