Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy described the penalty shootout defeat to Slovakia as ‘a travesty’.
Having led Ireland through the qualification campaign for Euro 2020, Mick McCarthy had more than a vested interest in the playoff tie against Slovakia.
During McCarthy’s most recent stint as manager, Ireland didn’t record a big victory in his second spell and there was no standout game in qualification.
Ireland only lost once – a humbling defeat away to Switzerland – but they could only record competitive victories over Gibraltar and Georgia under him. Stephen Kenny was originally set to replace McCarthy at the end of the Euro 2020 qualification campaign but the global Covid-19 pandemic accelerated those plans.
Since being replaced by Kenny, the former Wolves and Sunderland manager has been working for Sky Sports and speaking about the Slovakia defeat, he said “when you look at the way the game went, it was a travesty that Ireland didn’t go through.
Ireland finished third in Group D under McCarthy – four points behind group winners Switzerland and three of Denmark – and McCarthy feels that the Irish players deserved more from their campaign.
“It’s desperately sad for the two lads that missed and for all the lads. Ireland played well. They’ve had the best chances and all that was missing was the finish and that goal that probably would have been enough to win it. We played the best football, had the best chances. We were the better side for large portions of the game and you could see Stephen Kenny talking to his players before they went back out for extra-time and he seemed to be urging them to go forward,” he said.
McCarthy adds: “He could see that Slovakia were not comfortable and the chance was there to get the goal because they look tired and uncertain at the back when we pressed them. I’m devastated for the lads. They gave me everything in the qualifying games and they deserved more from that. It was so sad to see it end like that.”
Former Ireland defender Phil Babb was also in the Sky Sports studio and he believes that Ireland were “by far the better team.”
“I’m gutted and it’s such a cruel way to go out. The two lads that missed in the penalty shootout didn’t deserve that as we were by far the better team. We weathered the storm and then handled everything Slovakia could throw at us. We grew into the game and had we been more clinical on another day, we could’ve won the game 2-0 or 3-0,” said the former Liverpool and Coventry defender.
Babb adds: “It’s a bitter pill to swallow because of the possession and the chances they created. We’ve seen the development of the side tonight after the two Nations League games. This was a polished, well-drilled performance. It will be a very quiet dressing room and it will be very hard for them to pick themselves up. The Nations League is now a chance to get to the World Cup play-offs and that has to be the next goal.”
Next up for Ireland is the Nations League matches against Wales and Finland.