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Thursday 27 June 2019

Mick's ready for second coming

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is pictured in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar during training yesterday
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy is pictured in the shadow of the Rock of Gibraltar during training yesterday
Shane Duffy rises for a header during training at the Victoria Stadium in Gibraltar yesterday

Two games in to the qualifiers for Euro 2004, Mick McCarthy got the elbow.

Fifteen years later, the man who is back at the helm of the Ireland side says he still gets butterflies in his stomach ahead of a game like this evening's, a Euro 2020 qualifier away to Gibraltar.

"The butterflies are there already. It's getting closer and closer. I'm glad I have that feeling because if I lose that then there would be something wrong. That has been with me from the first game I ever played," he said.

The next few days is a clear-cut scenario for McCarthy, wins in Gibraltar and at home to Georgia (next Tuesday) required for the team to have a chance of qualifying in 2020.

And McCarthy says he has already seen the good, and the bad, from his new charges on the training ground as they try to right the wrongs of the last 15 months of international football.

Scoring goals is a clear problem for the Republic of Ireland, who have failed to find the net in the last four outings. He can change personnel, change the way they play but he's made it clear he is also looking for a change in attitude. McCarthy wasn't pleased with something he saw in training in Dublin earlier this week.

"What have we done? The first training session, I wasn't happy with the amount of chances that we were creating, or players getting in the box," says McCarthy.

"TC (Terry Connor) put in a great session on exactly for that on the third day, and we gave them the feedback on the night, and just showed the difference between how you can do it.

"We've got to do it in a game of course, doing it in training is one thing.

"We have worked on it, and that's pretty much all you can do, give players information in terms of wanting people to get in the box, putting crosses in the box, however you get in there, and just try and create more chances and have more bodies there, on the move, and trying to score if we create we chances, and hopefully we do. So we have worked on it."

He will lean heavily on players from the O'Neill era, the likes of Randolph, Duffy, Coleman, Brady and Hendrick almost certain to start when fit, but the Ireland boss says he has been impressed by some of the fresher faces.

"Before the start of the week think I was thinking of players, waxing lyrical about all the goals Alan Browne was scoring, and Ronan Curtis and Callum O'Dowda, and the three of them aren't here.

"Having seen them training I might have changed my mind, that they are in my thoughts to play."

Some things have not changed from the O'Neill years as Seamus Coleman will play, and captain the side tonight, taking him to the 50-cap mark.

With the retirement of leadership figures like Stephen Ward and Jon Walters, added to earlier exits from John O'Shea, Daryl Murphy and Wes Hoolahan, someone like Coleman will become even more important, giving leadership to younger players still adapting to life on the international stage under a manager who is starting off all over again.

No baggage

"We are getting to grips with what Mick wants, his ideas," says Coleman.

"In the couple of days we have been in, lads have learned what's needed of them.

"The lads who have been around realise that the last year wasn't good enough, but we have new lads coming in who have no baggage."

McCarthy has a few factors to cope with in Gibraltar but he insists that climate conditions won't get him down. It was very windy when the squad trained at the match stadium here in Gibraltar last night and even stronger winds are expected around kickoff time this evening.

"You are aware where we play our football? We don't play in ideal conditions all the time in terms of weather, bearing in mind that I started at Barnsley and been at Sunderland and been to Glasgow," he said.

"That's nothing that concerns me, I can't do anything about that. It is what it is. We'll just get on with it."

He also has to choose his personnel wisely.

While paying respect to the opposition, he knows that a big win is expected, as even the most optimistic of locals who were chatting around the Ireland training session last night expected a 3-0 win for the away side. The Ireland manager says he has no worries over the ability of Sean Maguire to play twice in four days, if the country needs him to do so, though the priority for the Ireland boss is to get a result tonight while also having a focus on his team for the biggest test, at home to Georgia on Tuesday.

In contrast to O'Neill, McCarthy will inform his players of the starting XI well before the game and not an hour before kick-off like his predecessor. "I might email the players when they are all in bed so they get it first thing in the morning," he says with a smile.

Not a joke he would have made last time around in 2002, when footballers and email were not good friends, but the 2019 version of McCarthy is ready to go. Now he just needs his team to deliver.

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