It’s a textbook case of job done for Mick McCarthy as Ireland sit pretty at the top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group, but the win against Gibraltar on Monday night was far from a festival of football.
After a strong draw against Denmark in Copenhagen on Friday night, McCarthy made two changes, starting two players up top in Scott Hogan and David McGoldrick and taking Glenn Whelan out of midfield.
The move was a creative one but it failed to have the desired effect as Ireland limped to an unconvincing 2-0 win thanks to a first-half own goal and a late Robbie Brady header.
The Boys in Green dominated proceedings in the possession-based stats and the visitors never looked like scoring once at the Aviva Stadium but Ireland were wasteful in front of goal and failed to convert their pressure into goals.
So how did McCarthy assess the game? Bluntly, to start.
“It’s a win. Much needed. 10 points, that’s my assessment of it.”
The game was a frustrating one from an Irish point of view given the promising level of performance against both Denmark and Georgia.
McCarthy agreed with the frustrations of many at the Aviva but was keen to express that his contempt was geared towards the game itself rather than his side.
“Frustrated? Not really, I was frustrated at the game I wasn’t frustrated at the lads, I was a little bit frustrated with the first half, when we didn’t stop them playing, they had a little bit too much in the first half, in the second I don’t think they got near our 18 yard box.
“We had 30 odd shots and loads of crosses, we were wasteful with the final pass. We have to congratulate them for being so belligerent and stubborn and defending well. We’ll work on it but I would’ve taken ten points beforehand.”
The Irish boss had warned that the game may not be the easiest on the eye, expressing his desire to simply get the three points and not worry about wowing the fans with a hatful of goals.
McCarthy felt that the Gibraltarian side were far better than many, including the press in the conference room, had given them credit for and that the three points, to him, was always paramount.
“I think you’re all being very disrespectful to Gibraltar actually. Talking to me beforehand about how it’s going to be a festival of football and scoring five past them or whatever it was, I never thought that would be the case.
“Sorry for being so pragmatic but I’ll take the points. Yes, we could’ve scored more but we haven’t.”
Performance aside it is difficult to argue with McCarthy’s assessment. Ten points from a possible 12 in the first four games of the group is what many would’ve wanted.
The opening challenges were tough and more difficulties lie ahead with Switzerland home and away and Georgia in Tbilisi three serious tests for the Boys in Green, but it’s job done, no matter how workmanlike said job often was.
“When the draw was made I thought to myself I’d take 10 points from the first four games. Every Irish fan would’ve taken ten points, however, we were going to get them.
“We played better against Denmark and Georgia, we’ve had two horrible games against Gibraltar but we’ve dispatched them both times so six points from the two games.”