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Saturday 14 December 2019

John Aldridge: 'Agonising result but this display inspires hope'

'I was impressed with Sheffield United striker McGoldrick as he played that central striker role and gave me a reminder of what I used to do for Ireland in the distant past.' Photo: SPORTSFILE
'I was impressed with Sheffield United striker McGoldrick as he played that central striker role and gave me a reminder of what I used to do for Ireland in the distant past.' Photo: SPORTSFILE

So near and yet so far. That was the agonising story for Ireland on a thrilling night at the Aviva Stadium.

Matt Doherty's late equaliser brought that Euro 2020 qualifying dream within touching distance heading into the final few minutes.

And you just felt the momentum was on our side as the Danes looked rattled. But that winner would not come, as an agonised gasp echoed around the stadium after the final whistle sounded.

We are all disappointed right now but the Ireland lads did us proud with a gutsy display.

I liked so many aspects of what we saw from the boys in green, as they put everything into a qualifier that highlighted the growth of this team since Mick McCarthy returned as manager last year.

When you reflect on the 5-1 defeat against Denmark a couple of years back and compare that abject performance to the display we produced last night, there is no doubt that this was a more mature and professional display.

Christian Eriksen struggled to make an impact in the game and the Danes seemed very happy to sit back and settle for the 0-0 draw that would have been enough to secure their qualification.

We had half chances to get the lead that could have changed the course of the game in our favour, but we just lacked the cutting edge to finish them off and that was not just down to lead striker David McGoldrick.

I was impressed with Sheffield United striker McGoldrick as he played that central striker role and gave me a reminder of what I used to do for Ireland in the distant past.

He chased down every lost cause and gave everything without getting too much in the way of quality service, with the delivery from out wide not good enough when we got ourselves into decent positions at times.

You sensed the party we all wanted to be a part of was not going to happen once Denmark scored. It was the one moment of quality from them in the game and it allowed them to score the goal that pushed the target too far away from Ireland.

Then, even after Doherty's late goal produced a defining roar from the Aviva Stadium crowd, the winning moment would not arrive.

Despite the disappointment at the final whistle, Mick and the players should take some confidence from their performance in this game and throughout the group, as they look forward to the play-offs in March.

This is an Ireland team pulling in the same direction once again and when you consider where we were a year ago, there is certainly a more positive vibe around this team and we should all believe this qualifying dream is not dead yet.

Aside from the result, it was a special night for me at the Aviva Stadium last night as I was given the great honour of being presented to the crowd ahead of kick-off and the ovation I received was humbling.

The Irish supporters were fantastic to me when I was playing for the team and the respect they have shown me since my playing career came to an end has never failed to fill me with pride.

We have the best fans in the world, there is no doubt about that, and they deserve to be at the major championships when they roll around every couple of years.

So while we were all disappointed by the result last night, we have to keep the faith with Mick and his boys and believe we will plot a route through to the finals next summer via the play-off route.

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