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'None of you think we are that good or the players are that good'

The criticism of the Republic of Ireland team isn’t going away anytime soon, and Mick McCarthy is sick of it.

Mick McCarthy spoke to the media in Dublin yesterday.
Mick McCarthy spoke to the media in Dublin yesterday.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

IT IS NO great secret that Mick McCarthy feels he should be getting more credit for the job he has done during his second stint as Republic of Ireland manager.

With one game of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign left, Ireland share top spot in Group D with Denmark, who arrive in Dublin for a winner-takes-all clash on 18 November, while Switzerland, who trail a point behind in third place, are away to bottom side Gibraltar the same night.

Top spot with a game to go? We’d all have taken that this time last year, and McCarthy hasn’t been shy to point that out.

True, this is an unusually lofty situation for an Ireland team to find themselves in, yet the nature of recent performances has ensured many supporters are remaining tentatively cautious, and with good reason.

In the last round of qualifiers Ireland were woeful in a 0-0 draw away to Georgia before a 2-0 defeat in Switzerland. Across those two games key players under-performed, Ireland struggled to create chances and at times they even failed with basics such as keeping possession.

They will need to be much better to get a positive result against Denmark, a team with whom Ireland have plenty of recent history, yet McCarthy has once again stressed his frustration with some of the negativity that surrounds his team.

Speaking in Dublin after announcing an extended 39-man provisional squad yesterday, the Ireland manager took umbrage with the suggestion that morale may be an issue within the playing group following recent performances.

“This is one of those games where surely it’s to big it up and not to write that ‘Oooh, the Ireland players are feeling down…’ I don’t think they are,” McCarthy said.

“They were disappointed with their performance, they were disappointed in Georgia. Switzerland were better than us. No matter what shape I played, they were better than us and deserved to win and we had a right good scrap in the second half and with 10 men, it was a performance we could be proud of with 10 men. First half, really poor.

“This is a game to big it up, and have an exciting game, not ‘Oh the Irish team are feeling a bit down, the lads aren’t great, oh this player is not playing [for his club], oh this player is not playing.’

“It’s one we want to win and a little bit of help from outside or inside [this room] here, might just help. It’s a full house. Would you have took this situation on December 1, when the draw was made? I would. Would you? Would you? (asking individual journalists) Yeah you would because you don’t think we’re that good anyway. None of you think we are that good or the players are that good.

james-mcclean-dejected James McClean came in for criticism following his performances against Georgia and Switzerland. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“No, that was the feeling before I came in, they were getting caned, they were getting panned. And the team, hold on, all of a sudden we get those teams, there is a sigh of relief when we don’t get Germany and Holland [in the draw], then we get Switzerland and Denmark, that’s a real piece of piss isn’t it? There was no great…everybody wasn’t dancing about with their knickers in the air thinking we were just going to win. No, we’re the third best team in the group and we can win it on this game. We’d have all took it.

“How about giving it a bit of a lift this game as well. Tell you what, give it a lift, big it up and we’ll all have a great atmosphere and we’ll all enjoy it. If we don’t, I’ll take the brickbats for you, but at least give us a chance to start with.”

The back-and-forth continued for a few more minutes, with one journalist pointing out the media’s responsibility to report what they see, before the conversation eventually turned back to the actual football.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the other talking points:

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Naming extended squads is a “pain in the backside”, but McCarthy does so to avoid any problems with clubs if he needs to call someone up should first choice players pull out with injury.

He’d love to have Robbie Brady as an option, and while he is not fully fit, the Burnley player is “getting there.” 

Ireland will play four at the back against Denmark.

With Seamus Coleman suspended, “opportunity knocks” for Matt Doherty.

Then James McClean was mentioned. The midfielder has come in for particularity heavy criticism, and has not been able to nail down his place in a Stoke side who currently sit second from bottom in the Championship with just two wins from 14 games.

“I knew we’d get to the player you’ve all been talking about,” McCarthy said.

“He’s not playing for Stoke, not at the minute. In terms of his performances, I’m not going to say that he’s been, certainly in the last game that he was better or worse than anyone else in that game and I know what I get out of James so I don’t know. He has been a bit in and out, but mind you Stoke have as well, with their results and what’s gone on there it’s not easy playing in there.”

The friendly against New Zealand, which takes place four days before the Denmark game, will give us a clearer indication of McCarthy’s thinking. McCarthy will use the game to get some minutes into the legs of players who have been short of gametime with their clubs, but he will also look at some of his younger players with an eye to changing up his team for Denmark, particularly up front where he needs to find some goals.

McCarthy named 12 strikers in his extended squad, which he will trim next week. Tottenham’s Troy Parrott, 17, is expected to make his senior debut against New Zealand, while Queens Park Rangers defender Ryan Manning has been included in a senior squad for the first time under McCarthy.

“There’s one lot of you guys asking me about youth and the other talking about us needing experience, we all know that but if you can have a hugely experienced team that is playing well, to play in this game [against Denmark], then that would be my choice. But if I have someone like Aaron Connolly who is ripping it up or if Troy got in the first team at Spurs and suddenly started scoring, then I would have to consider them as well. But it’s not for sticking three or four debutants in this game, that’s for sure.”

McCarthy finished up his press conference by again outlining his desire to see supporters get behind the team, admitting that the security of a potential play-off via the Nations League has not come into his thoughts.

“I think you know over the years, we’ve produced performances and results in Dublin and, you know, might be over and above what is expected. Whether this is expected or not, we can win this game.”

Like it or not, that is the only way McCarthy will silence the critics.

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