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Dublin: 10°C Monday 8 March 2021

Hendrick's lack of game time not a concern to McCarthy ahead of crunch Swiss qualifier

Ireland face the only side to beat McCarthy in a competitive home game on Thursday, as the race to Euro 2020 hots up.

Mick McCarthy speaks to the media.
Mick McCarthy speaks to the media.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

BROADLY, MICK MCCARTHY’S selection policy follows a pretty basic principle. If you’re not playing at club level, you’re not going to play for him. 

That’s the reason Shane Long was among the fall guys as he winnowed his squad from 40 to 25 players, and why he was further overlooked in favour of James Collins when it came to calling up a replacement for the stricken Sean Maguire. 

“Shane just wasn’t playing, in any games, so my logic is they need to be playing”, said the manager, although added that “it is still very much there for him” when asked if this marked the end of the striker’s international career.

It’s not an entirely inflexible principle, mind, and he does consider players’ past contributions in putting his team together. 

“Experience is certainly key, I think, in these games”, said McCarthy when quizzed about who we might see play on Thursday, “and I am loyal to people, certainly to the ones who perform when they turn out and they play.

“You’ve got a head start if you’ve been in the team, that’s for sure, you’ve been playing.”

jeff-hendrick Jeff Hendrick at Irish training earlier today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Of the 13 players who started across Ireland’s most recent games with Denmark and Gibraltar, and discounting the injured Robbie Brady, only Jeff Hendrick has year to start a league game this season. He was an unused substitute in Burnley’s game with Liverpool on Saturday, and has played just five minutes in the Premier League to date. 

McCarthy says he that doesn’t concern him.


“Because he played in the behind-closed-doors game, he played in the cup game [against Sunderland] the other night and Jeff is one of the most athletic players I’ve seen, one of the fittest guys I’ve had around the place.

“The distances he covered in the games that we had – he looks great, he’ll be fine. That’s assuming I pick him, of course.”

Elsewhere, Shane Duffy’s uninterrupted run in the Brighton team came to an end last weekend, left on the bench as new manager Graham Potter switched to a back three at Manchester City. 

It’s not a concern for McCarthy ahead of this week’s game, but admitted it may cause a little more unease in weeks to come if Duffy doesn’t force his way back in. 

“It is the first game he has missed, isn’t it? I think it is brilliant because he is fit and raring to go for me.

I’m worried going forward that he might not get back in the team if they are not playing really well and that would be a travesty for him, because he has been brilliant for Brighton. But they are playing a different system and if the manager thinks the other three are playing better than him, so be it.

“But in regards to this game, it means he’s here, he’s fit, he’s not carrying anything and he should be great on Thursday night.”

Thursday’s game is the biggest of his second reign. Ireland have done what they had to do thus far. The wins against Gibraltar and at home to Georgia were necessary; the draw away to Denmark a “bonus”, according to the manager. 

Now they face the group’s top seeds in Dublin, who lie six points behind Ireland with two games in hand. They will arrive in Dublin without Xherdan Shaqiri, who asked to be left out of the squad as he tries to force his way into the Liverpool team, but McCarthy isn’t paying too much heed to his absence. 

“It was a bit like when the draw was first made and we didn’t get Holland and Germany, and we suddenly got Switzerland and Denmark, your first reaction is “Oh, great” but then you realise that you have two good teams to play – then you realise that Switzerland have some excellent players.” 

While Ireland were knotted and unconvincing in the 2-0 win over Gibraltar at the Aviva in June, McCarthy said he would take a repeat of the Irish performance in the 1-0 defeat of Georgia in March. 

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Above all the ambition is to emulate those results, but would he take a draw against the Swiss? 

“I probably would, yes – not that we are going to try to get that, but bearing in mind the points that we have got already, if we remained unbeaten…

“They’re a good side, but we’re not setting up to get a draw, we’re going to try to win. But if it turns out we end up with a point, I’ll be happy at not being beaten.” 

mick-mccarthy McCarthy and Robbie Keane at Irish training. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McCarthy has only ever been beaten once in a competitive home game as Ireland manager. It was in the final game of his first stint in charge, beaten by a last-minute winning goal by Fabio Celestini of…Switzerland. 

“Does it bug me? I’ve probably had another 300 games since then and I’ve won, drawn and lost plenty.

“It would have been nice to leave on a win, because I was going anyway after the Switzerland game, but it doesn’t bother me, it was 17 years ago, there will be no players that played then playing now, I think the manager has changed a few times now, so honestly, it doesn’t really rankle with me.

“It’s a different game.”

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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