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Mick McCarthy says Ireland can be motivated by Danish jibes of the past

The Irish manager is promising a more positive approach in Friday’s crucial qualifier in Copenhagen.

Gavin Cooney reports from the Aviva Stadium

IF YOU WANT a vision of the future, imagine the Irish football manager fielding questions ahead of a game against Denmark – forever. 

Mick McCarthy Mick McCarthy at the launch of the new Republic of Ireland Team Suit from Benetti Menswear. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The latest – a fifth since November 2017 – is the Euro 2020 qualifier in Copenhagen on Friday, with Ireland’s record thus far reading three scoreless draws and a 5-1 defeat. 

Ireland’s farcically negative approach in the more recent games in the Nations League irked the Danish players, with an exasperated Christian Eriksen chiding Ireland for being “too scared to go forward” after the draw in Aarhus, Martin O’Neill’s final game in charge. 

After the goalless draw in Copenhagen in the first leg of the World Cup play-off (remember those joyous days of hope!) Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney talked of trying to play through the populous Irish defence.

“We tried and tried, but it was a bit like opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands – it takes time.” 

By the time the whole 5-1 thing had happened in Dublin, Denmark’s manager Age Hareide was thanking Martin O’Neill for allowing Eriksen have so much space. 

The “can of baked beans” line was raised at McCarthy’s press conference, in a question asking him whether the distant echoes of these Danish jibes would stick in his players’ minds. 

“It would with me. We are all different, but if somebody mentions it, it might just have a positive effect.

“If someone insults you, I guess you’d take umbrage at it and want to do something about it, if you could, in any positive way.” 

When McCarthy was asked exactly what the Danes have been saying about us, he was told that the general tenor of their criticism was that our football was “agricultural” – although none of the Danish squad have actually used that word in our direction. 

“Well, we’re from a farming country aren’t we?” 

Happily, McCarthy is promising a more positive approach than we have hitherto seen against the Danes. 

“I think if we play on the front foot we will have more of a chance than if we just sit back and try to soak up pressure and accept that they will have the ball.”

Analyst Ger Dunne has shown him clips from Ireland’s past games with the Danes, although more relevant for McCarthy was their dramatic qualifier draw with Switzerland in March. 

Trailing 3-0 with six minutes to go in Basel, the Danes somehow managed to rescue a point with a dramatic three-goal salvo. 

“I don’t know how they were 3-0 down”, said McCarthy. 

“They played like the home team, they put the full press on and went after Switzerland. They conceded a little bit of a sloppy goal, but then the second one was a handball – it was an awful decision.

“They end up 3-0 down, look like they’re dead and buried and end up being 3-3, so I think that tells you something about their resilience and their determination as well, as well as the quality they’ve got.” 

McCarthy is unsure whether Ireland’s familiarity with Denmark will be a positive on Friday night, he sees Denmark’s familiarity with themselves as more relevant. 

“The strengths are that they have been playing that team, that same shape, for a long time. They’re a big, powerful team. Schone and Delaney started that one with Eriksen playing in behind; Poulsen on the right looks a real threat running from out to in.

“They’re just a very, very compact, organised… They’ve been together a while, they’ve played the same shape, the manager’s been there for a while, Age Hareide, so all in all, they’re a tough nut to crack.” 

McCarthy’s squad was struck by injury again today – Shane Long hurt his hamstring in training and is out of both Friday’s game and Monday’s meeting with Gibraltar. With David McGoldrick, Seani Maguire, Scott Hogan, and Callum Robinson among his remaining options up front, the Irish manager won’t be drafting in a replacement at late notice. 

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Gavin Cooney

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