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'There's only one thing on our mind and that's trying to get a win on Thursday night'

James McClean says Ireland have no interest in settling for a draw in the critical Euro 2020 qualifier with Switzerland this week.

James McClean speaks to the media.
James McClean speaks to the media.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE ALL-IRELAND football final can get in line -Irish soccer has long held the firmest regard for draws.

With Switzerland, the top seeds in Ireland’s qualification group, in town on Thursday night, however, James McClean isn’t entertaining notions of setting up in hope of another memorable, hard-earned point. 

“Maybe that’s the view from the outside, maybe that’s what you think, but no”, McClean told the media. “We’re at home and we’re top of the group and we want to win, it’s as simple as that.

“If we win, it puts us in a nice, healthy position going into the last three games then, so no. There’s only one thing on our mind, and that’s trying to get a win on Thursday night.” 

His manager agreed that Ireland will seek to win the game, but Mick McCarthy added the pragmatic postscript that a draw would be a useful result as it would keep Ireland unbeaten. 

McCarthy’s side are top of Group D with 10 points from 12, six clear of the Swiss, although the group is skewed slightly by the schedule. 

Switzerland’s appearance at the finals stage of the Nations League means they have payed just twice, and thus have two games in hand on Ireland.

They have also yet to play Gibraltar, whom Ireland have already beaten twice. Switzerland host the group minnows on Sunday night, while Ireland will begin to lose their surplus of games played as they host Bulgaria in a friendly the following Tuesday. 

After an encouraging start, this is the week Euro 2020 qualification gets serious for Ireland. 

“We’ve got four games coming up now you’d probably say tougher than the first four we’ve had”, said McClean, “but we’re going in top of the league and it gives a nice positive reaction. It’s good to be back and we’ll look forward to this run of games coming up.” 

The winger doesn’t see much a chasm between the sides either. 

“No, I wouldn’t say so. Personally, that’s not my view. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but now there’s a good atmosphere around the place and we want to win every game we go into, and that’s the aim – and we’re at home as well.

“Look, confidence comes from winning games. We’ve won three so far – people might say two were against Gibraltar. So what? We still won and winning gives you confidence, so we’re confident going into the game.

“It’s another opportunity to get three points on the board and really grasp the opportunity now to try to go to another European Championships.” 

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While there is confidence in the Irish camp, McClean is leaving a squad shorn of it. Stoke City have made an abysmal start to the Championship season, and are bottom of the league with a single point from six games.

Manager Nathan Jones is under intense pressure, but McClean hopes Jones is given time to turn things around.

“I certainly hope so. I see every day how hard he works and how passionate he is. I could sit here very and blame the manager, but it’s not always the manager’s fault.

You can say it Nathan Jones’ fault now, it was Gary Rowett’s fault before that. Us as players need to look ourselves in the mirror and say maybe there’s a reason why Stoke have had so many managers in a short period of time recently. We as players need to take responsibility. This season we have made a lot of very basic, horrendous mistakes that have led to goals, and the manager can’t envision that when he’s naming the side and doing a formation.

“Look, we need to step up to the plate and show character, grab it by the scruff. I like the manager and I do hope he’s given time, but if he’s not and a new manager comes in, then no matter who the manager is, us as players, we need to take a look in the mirror and say maybe we’re the problem.”

Jones has been playing McClean at left-back this season, a role which the Irish international has been enjoying. 

“I’m obviously learning as each game goes on. I’m going to make mistakes along the way while I’m learning, that’s natural, but I’m embracing it and I’m enjoying it and like I said, I’m learning as each game goes on.” 

Enda Stevens is Ireland’s first-choice in that position, with Greg Cunningham on standby having not made the cut when McCarthy reduced his squad from 40 players to 25. McCarthy said today that, were injury or a sending off to befall Stevens in Thursday’s game, McClean is his second choice to cover that position. 

james-collins-jeff-hendrick-james-mcclean-kevin-long-and-glenn-whelan-share-a-joke McClean leaps on Kevin Long's back at training today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“If we have a problem and Enda got injured in training, God forbid, I have Greg Cunningham on standby. I didn’t want to have two left-backs. If it goes wrong in the game if he has to go off, I’d play James there”, said McCarthy. 

Switzerland, meanwhile, have to a reckon with a loss not theoretical: Xherdan Shaqiri has opted out of this international window to try and force his way into the Liverpool team. McClean isn’t viewing his absence as a boost for Ireland. 

“It’s just business as usual. There are still good players – they were in the top 10 in the world for a reason. They have still got good players, so we have to respect them, yes, but we won’t fear them and we’ll take the game to them.

“It doesn’t matter who is playing, that’s the aim. We want to go out an impose ourselves on them and do what we can, do what needs must by all means necessary to get a result.”

Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey, Ryan Bailey and Sean Farrell with their immediate reaction to Ireland’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Gavin Cooney

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