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'They're a great bunch of lads and, with a bit of luck, we might just qualify'

Irish manager Mick McCarthy was delighted with his side’s late draw with Denmark last night.

Gavin Cooney reports from the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen

A JUBILANT 1-1 draw secured by Shane Duffy’s forehead – this new era sure does look a lot like the previous one. 

Mick McCarthy and Robbie Keane Mick McCarthy stands for the national anthem ahead of kick-off in Denmark. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In fairness, leaving Copenhagen with a desire to simply watch a game of football again is considerable progress on Ireland’s part, by the meagre (shit on a) yardstick of our previous games in Denmark. Both were scoreless draws, the most recent in Aarhus featuring neither an Irish corner nor a shot on target. 

This was a more turbulent experience – Ireland were proactive in chasing the ball but profligate on it. Denmark, meanwhile, dominated possession while missing a series of chances until Pierre Hojbjerg headed in his first one with 15 minutes left on the clock.

From there, however, Ireland equalised through Duffy’s header and looked the more likely to win the game, with Kasper Schmeichel forced to deny McClean a late, outrageous winner. 

“Same faces, different footprint” said Denmark manager Age Hareide after it all, when asked if he had just faced a different Ireland team than he had become used to. 

Mick McCarthy, by contrast, went back to the footprint of many Irish successes in the past. 

“Despite a setback, they’ve kept going and shown great spirit and resilience, and that great fighting spirit that Irish teams have in abundance”, McCarthy told his post-game press conference.

“I don’t think anybody can out-scrap us and out-run us.

“Can we better with the ball? I think we could. I was disappointed at times. We won the ball back a lot in the first half and gave it away fairly quickly so we were profligate in that way.

“I looked at the team and they’re a great bunch of lads and, with a bit of luck, we might just qualify.” 

McCarthy was very open in stating his satisfaction with a draw ahead of the game, and he wasn’t making a case for deserving anything more post-game. 

“I don’t think we could have asked for much more out of the game. We made saves, blocks, and they missed a couple.

“We had chances as well, of course. We were still going after 94 minutes, trying to get a winner. I was delighted with that performance.

“Yes we did [ride our luck] but I kind of knew that. I didn’t expect to come to Denmark and play against a very good team and not have to [rely on some luck].

“I thought we earned a bit of luck by the way we played and the way the lads stuck at it.

“When they scored it had an effect on us, we played our best then for a short while and got the result out of it.” 

When asked what statement this sent out to the rest of the group, however, McCarthy demurred. 

“You write it, you make all the statements. I’m just pleased we played as well as we did, in a very tough place with a great crowd behind them. Our crowd were fabulous too, there was a great atmosphere. But I’m not looking at statements.

“We’ve got a game on Monday, I’ve just done my Dad job and reminded them that while we enjoy this, we’ve got a game on Monday.” 

That game is against Gibraltar, who were beaten 1-0 in March in Ireland’s first group game. 

Ireland are, obviously, more familiar with Denmark, and it has evidently bred a little contempt. Prior to kick-off, the Danes played highlights of the 5-1 World Cup play-off defeat on the big screen, with the build-up peppered with quotes of Danish players talking down the Irish style of play. 

Jens Stryger Larsen and Jeff Hendrick come together as Seamus Coleman intervenes Seamus Coleman and Jeff Hendrick confront Jens Stryger Larsen. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Seamus Coleman was more fired up than usual, sprinting 15 yards to grapple with Lens Stryer Larsen after the Danish player fouled Jeff Hendrick and booted the ball into his back. James McClean, meanwhile, was quite clear on what he thought of it all afterward. 

“Professionals criticising you and not in a nice way either”, he told Sky Sports.

“We wanted to go out and prove a point. Fair enough, they beat us 5-1, but we played them five times recently and drew four so they’re not much better than us themselves, are they?”

Speaking to reporters after the game, goalkeeper Darren Randolph was similarly unflinching on the topic.

“I don’t know what they expect, just go on the pitch and let them score and win the game? We’re not going to make it easy for anybody.

“We’ve always been known for our resilience, we have to show against Denmark tonight and in the past. They’re the home team, they created enough chances to win the game, they didn’t take them, blame us, then fair enough.” 

Gibraltar on Monday will be the final challenge of the players’ seasons on Monday night, and a win would leave Ireland in a healthy position at the halfway point of Group D. 

They are currently top of the pile on seven points, five clear of the Danes having played a game more. 

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Gavin Cooney

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