Mick McCarthy: “The only thing I’m disappointed about tonight is the result.”

– By James Clancy

After a delay of some 30 minutes or thereabouts, Mick McCarthy finally emerged for his post match press conference on what was a bitterly disappointing night for him and his Irish players.

He looked weary and was wearing a suit but, untypically for him, the top button of his shirt was open and he was wearing no tie.

He said: “I have mixed emotions. I’m disappointed that we haven’t qualified tonight. That’s the only thing I’m disappointed about tonight.

“I’m very proud of the players. Despite having played well and made a mistake, we got back into it.

“I gave out to Matt Doherty for his mistake for their goal, I forgot to congratulate him for his goal!

“My players left everything on the pitch. I’m disappointed with the result, but that’s the only thing I’m disappointed about.”

“The turning point was the conceding of their goal. Three games now, having conceded first, we’ve gotten back into it and you’ve seen the mayhem that causes for the opposition when we throw everything we have at them.

“I’ve not been disappointed with any performance in this campaign.

“We’ve played them seven times, the 1-5 game has no bearing on tonight’s game.

“We’ve had one bad performance and come back well.”

McCarthy was asked about the Danish goal which came shortly after an Irish attacking substitution.

For the only time in the press conference, McCarthy got annoyed: “The substitution had nothing to do with the goal.

“The subs who came on, I thought also all did well. I’d a centre-half (John Egan) injured at half-time and I had to bring on another centre-half. I wanted to keep it tight for as long as I could.


“If we perform like we did tonight (in the future), more chances will come and more goals will hopefully come. We’ve only scored seven goals in eight games, so we clearly haven’t been clinical enough. I feel if we had nicked it tonight we’d have deserved it.”

When asked if playing out from the back was how we wanted his team to play, McCarthy said:

“Are you winding me up? My players played exactly the way I asked them to. We wanted them to play out from the back. My team did far more than Denmark did.


When asked what he said to the players at half-time to play better in the second-half, McCarthy: “I thought we played well in the first-half. We didn’t give them chances. We struggled to find the final pass in on goal though.”



Brave Ireland come up just short and March playoffs await

– By James Clancy

With tonight’s match at the Aviva Stadium being the sixth time the Republic of Ireland have played Denmark in the last two years, the Scandinavians are indeed familiar foes.

Having drawn four and lost one of the previous five clashes between the nations, the chances of Ireland securing the win required to book automatic qualification were slim realistically.

Denmark proceeded to score with their only shot on target in the 73rd minute.

From there – and for most of the second-half – it was all Ireland and though Matt Doherty equalized with a terrific header in the 86th minute, it wasn’t enough and Ireland now face the Euro 2020 playoffs in March.

It would have been the first time Ireland qualified automatically for a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup.

Crowd were in great voice at what appears to be a sold-out Aviva Stadium.

Ireland wearing green shirts, white shorts and green socks. As it should be at home.

Having nearly died on the training pitch a few short years ago, Shane Duffy captains Ireland for the first time tonight.

John Egan goes in with a full blooded header inside the second minute to win a free-kick for the home side.

Crowd have been in great voice and the vast majority of the full house do “Stand up for the boys in green”.

Hendrick tries to play McGoldrick in but Schmeichel gathers and hammers the ball unceremoniously into touch with Thomas Delaney on the ground injured. Delaney’s ankle appears to have given way under a tackle with Alan Browne. He won’t likely continue.

Delaney tries to come back on and Denmark are down to ten men briefly.

Pierre Emile Hojbjerg comes on to replace Delaney in the 11th minute.

In the opening quarter, Ireland certainly see more of the ball than in previous encounters.

Eriksen dropping deep as he hasn’t seen much of the ball. Early on that is.

Hendrick gives the ball away cheaply when Ireland had a chance to build a good attack close to the edge of the Danish box.

McClean jumps under a ball played out to him from Randolph. McClean is a great trier but he struggles for quality.

Ireland looking to play the ball back to Randolph in goal too often. Randolph has good feet but it only takes one mistake.

Eriksen has a chance from a tight angle just inside the Irish box but Duffy gets back in the nick of time and he blocks for a Danish corner, though, not sure the Irish captain knew much about it.

Andreas Cornelius gets his head bandaged up like Terry Butcher following a clash with John Egan.

Duffy does well to head the resulting corner-kick away.

The game has the feel of a mid-table Premier League game with Egan and Duffy rocks at the back for Ireland.

Hourihane with a great chance on 33 minutes. He’s played in on goal, in on Schmeichel but the Cork man scuffs his shot into the Danish ‘keeper’s arms from 12 yards out. He’ll be rueing that he didn’t smash it. Crowd in great voice now.

Alan Browne has a strike from 30 yards out on the half-volley which flies half a yard wide of the far post with Schmeichel struggling. Ireland really coming into it eight minutes before half-time.

McGoldrick gets on the ball a few minutes before half-time, advances a few yards and smashes an effort just wide from 30 yards, though Schmeichel appeared to have it covered.

The ball flashes across the Ireland goal just before half-time but the referee has blown his whistle for a push on mountain Shane Duffy.

McClean does well to win a corner-kick off Kjaer on the stroke of half-time. Good ball played across from Whelan but Duffy can’t quite get on the end of it.

There hasn’t been much in it but Ireland had the better of the chances, especially when Hourihane got in one-on-one on Schmeichel.

Ciaran Clark replaces John Egan at half-time. Egan had a bang to the head and looked to not have shaken it off.

Ireland starting on the front foot in the second-half, winning a couple of early corners.

The ball flashes across the face of the goal from a great ball from Hourihane and Schmeichel just about bats it away.

Whelan booked for a full-blooded two-footed tackle on Larsen on 53 minutes.

Following a great run from Doherty, McClean plays a poor ball across the box which is cleared just before the hour mark.

Ireland win a corner following good work from McGoldrick and the crowd are in great voice.

Great play from Doherty who wins the ball on the edge of his box, rounds his man and plays a good ball into midfield.

Ball bobbles around in the Danish penalty area but McGoldrick fires well over the ball on the turn.

Ireland are going to go for it as Callum Robinson comes on for Hourihane midway through the second-half.

Denmark take the lead against the run of play with the ball played across to Braithwaite who finishes to the net first time from six yards out with 17 minutes to play. Doherty was caught out of position, he should have been tracking the runner.

Denmark get everyone back behind the ball in the final ten minutes.

Last throw of the dice for Ireland on 81 minutes as striker Seáni Maguire comes on for midfielder Glenn Whelan.

Goalmouth scramble immediately results in the Danish six-yard box but they clear.

McClean shoots from distance but it’s straight at Schmeichel.

Duffy to play up front from the 83rd minute.

Doherty made up for error by powering a terrific eight-yard header to the net with five minutes to play.

It was a grandstand finish but Ireland couldn’t force the winner and it’s the playoffs in March now for Mick McCarthy’s men, most likely against Wales or Slovakia.

The Danes meanwhile progress to the Euro 2020 finals as runners-up in the group but they can count themselves to come away from Dublin with a result tonight.

Republic of Ireland: 23 Randolph; 2 Doherty, 4 Duffy (c), 5 Egan, 3 Stevens; 8 Browne, 6 Whelan, 13 Hendrick, 14 Hourihane, 11 McClean; 9 McGoldrick.

SUBSTITUTES: 5 Clark for Egan (H/T), 14 Robinson for Hourihane (67 mins),

Denmark: 1 Schmeichel; 14 Dalsgaard, 13 Jorgensen, 4 Kjaer (c), 17 Stryger Larsen; 19 Schone, 8 Delaney; 20 Poulsen, 10 Eriksen, 11 Braithwaite; 21 Cornelius

SUBSTITUTES: 23 Hojbjerg for Delaney (13 mins), 12 Dolberg for Cornelius (33 mins), 6 Andreas Christensen for Schone (83 mins).

Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)

Attendance: 51,000


On the tenth anniversary of *that* Thierry Henry handball, has VAR gone too far?

– By James Clancy

It’s an indication of what an emotive night November 18th, 2009 was for (Irish) football that the tenth anniversary of that night has overshadowed somewhat the build-up to November 18th, 2019 and what is another huge night for Irish football.

The Republic of Ireland host Denmark this Monday, November 18th at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, knowing that a win will book a place at the 2020 European Championships (assuming Switzerland don’t draw with Gibraltar) where Ireland will play two matches in Dublin. This would of course have major economic and other spin-off benefits for Ireland, as well as the optics of not wanting to host a party (a total of four European Championship matches in summer 2020) that you’re not invited to!

November 18th, 2009 was of course however the night that Thierry Henry deliberately handled the ball (twice) to setup William Gallas who headed into an empty net to score for France and ultimately knock the Republic of Ireland out of qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

The rhetoric at the time (particularly from an Irish demographic that felt very sorry for itself) was that Henry was a horrible individual, a cheat and much stronger/more offensive terms used to chastise the then Barcelona star. Henry was further pilloried for years afterwards, even receiving death threats in the aftermath and is still reviled in some (mainly Irish) quarters.

Speaking immediately after the match, Henry said: “The ball bounced off my hand. I’m not the referee. He didn’t blow his whistle, so I kept going.”

For me, those words from Henry are difficult if not impossible to argue with. Virtually any professional footballer would have acted similarly to Henry in such circumstances. Included among them was Damien Duff, who immediately after that fateful match in Paris back in November 2009 said tearfully: “You’d have to chance it. You’d try your luck and see if you could get away with it.”

In many ways, missing out on a World Cup in such circumstances, is the worst injustice in football. For me, the World Cup is football’s greatest stage and to miss out on football’s greatest stage by such a fine margin and in such unjust circumstances, is the ultimate footballing injustice. At least if you’re a victim of an injustice while playing at the World Cup, you’re still there, you’re still at the greatest show.

When the millions of people watching that match on television could see Henry’s (double) handball infringement on replays within seconds of the incident occurring, the argument became from many that there should be video replays/video technology in elite football so as to help the match officials to make decisions.

There are of course arguments for and against a Video Assistant Referee (VAR). FIFA argued at the time and for some years before and after that VAR would widen the gap between elite level football and grassroots football (which obviously will never have VAR).

VAR has however come in now into many major football leagues and was used at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the 2019 Women’s World Cup and other major tournaments. For some, this is great. They feel that elements of doubt will be removed from football and all major decisions will be decided accurately and fairly.

There are definitely serious issues surrounding VAR however. Last weekend, Sheffield United played Tottenham Hotspur at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Republic of Ireland and Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick thought he had equalized just two minutes after Son Heung-min’s 58th minute opener for Spurs, but VAR replays showed that John Lundstram’s big toe had been marginally offside in the build-up to United’s goal – a decision that was so close it took almost four minutes to make.

The officials in the VAR room used many different angles and several differently aligned rulers to eventually come to the decision. When an offside is that marginal, surely the attacking team deserves the benefit of the doubt? I say that as a former goalkeeper.

Sheffield United eventually did equalize in the 78th minute of that game and the final score was 1-1 on the day. Goals change games however and McGoldrick’s disallowed strike might well have cost The Blades two points which could be crucial come the end of the season.

Has VAR gone too far? When applied to the English Premier League – and taking up to four minutes to make a decision – with players, coaches and fans in the ground not knowing exactly what’s happening in the interim of an incident that has been referred to VAR? In that case, I believe very much that VAR has gone too far.

It’s been announced over the last few days that Premier League fans will get more details about VAR checks starting from next month. The decision was agreed by the Premier League and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) at a stakeholder meeting this week.

For me, these changes don’t go far enough. The Premier League waited extra time to bring VAR into it. They looked at what happened in the World Cup, other tournaments and rugby. They’re still not up to speed with what other countries and other leagues are doing however.

It is essential for the fans in the stadium to be aware of what’s going on. The fans in the stadium are the most important stakeholders in football. At the moment, they have no idea what is going on when a VAR referral is made (which can often take up to four minutes).

Those watching on television are also of course significant stakeholders in football. In terms of an offside that is referred to VAR, for example, the red and blue lines that are seen on our television screens are just an indication. They are not exactly the same images as the VAR decision makers are seeing due to pixilation.

Should VAR be used in football at all however? For me, the most emotive and iconic football moments have tended to occur in international football, particularly at the World Cup. At the 1982 World Cup, had VAR been in use, West German goalkeeper Harold Schumacher would likely have been sent off for his horrific full frontal charge on French substitute Patrick Battiston in the 60th minute of that year’s semi-final (pictured above) which knocked the Frenchman unconscious and broke his ribs.

In the sweltering Seville heat, with the West Germans down to ten men and with the skills of French captain Michel Platini, the French would likely have gone on to win. Instead the French lost the World Cup’s first ever penalty shoot-out with Schumacher crucially saving two spot-kicks which saw the West Germans progress to the final.

Had VAR been in use at that 1982 World Cup however, we would have been denied one of football’s iconic moments and greatest celebrations. That was of course Marco Tardelli’s eyes bulging and maniacally racing exultation (pictured below) after he had scored to put the Italians 2-0 ahead late on in that 1982 World Cup final against the West Germans and on their way to lift the trophy. Tardelli’s team-mate Gaetano Scirea was of course offside in the build-up to that goal, an incident which VAR would almost certainly have spotted.

There are of course a myriad of other historical footballing “injustices” that VAR would have seen and ruled on.

Do refereeing mistakes “even themselves out” over the course of a game? Over the course of a season? Over the course of a career? Probably not.

For me however, VAR removes a lot of the drama, emotion and excitement from a footballing occasion. If a goal is scored, or other similarly dramatic incident these days, players and fans often have to wait a few minutes before the technology is consulted until they can celebrate. In my opinion, that removes a lot of the spontaneous joy of a major footballing moment.

Had Thierry Henry’s handball which led to that decisive goal been ruled out back in 2009 and France had gone on to win the (likely) resulting penalty shootout, would we still be talking about that night ten years on, a moment and a night which evokes emotion to this day? No, we wouldn’t still be talking about it. Had Ireland won the likely resulting penalty shootout and had an average World Cup, exiting at the group stage or the early knockout rounds as would surely have transpired, that night back on November 18th, 2009 would be a small footnote in the annals of international football.

Instead it’s one of the most famous, talked about and, for Irish football fans, emotional nights in football history. At its purest, isn’t that what football is all about?Ireland squad and fans in Paris

“He can sing, play football and he’s good looking ‘n’ all!”

Mick McCarthy post NZ

– By James Clancy

Mick McCarthy was in good spirits at tonight’s post match press conference following the Republic of Ireland 3-1 friendly win over New Zealand, but the Ireland manager is well aware that Denmark on Monday night will be a radically different proposition.

Asked to summarize Ireland’s performance tonight, McCarthy said: “I could see their goal coming. We had a lot of the ball in the first half but we didn’t do anything with it.

“In the second-half we dominated and could have scored more.”

On Troy Parrott:
“Troy did okay. He didn’t set the world alight but I was very pleased with him. He ran the channels well.

“He can handle himself. He tracked back, tackled their centre-half hard after being on the receiving end of some rough stuff. It was a welcome to mens’ football and he didn’t let anyone bully him.

“He appears to be someone very confident in his ability. He trains that way. He sung last night (at his initiation into the team). He’s a good singer – and he’s a good singer too! He can play football and he’s good looking, where did it all go wrong for him?!”

On Seáni Maguire and others who did well tonight:
“Seani Maguire played well. Brownie (Alan Browne) and Josh Cullen played well.

“Kevin Long played well, he looks like he’s playing every week for his club. Whatever he’s doing, fair play to him.”

On Robbie Brady:
“He did some good things, some not so good things. He needed a game. The 90 minutes will benefit him.”

The manager was non-committal on whether the fact that Brady played the full 90 minutes tonight means that he won’t play on Monday night against Denmark.

On Derrick Williams:
“I thought Derrick was excellent. He’s a left-sided centre-back and he’s done very well. I’ve been very impressed with Derrick. It was a great header for his goal tonight. I took him off because his calf tied up.”

On Carl Robinson:
“I think his best slot is on the left. It’s unfortunate for him that we have lots whose best slots is on the left.”

On debutant Lee O’Connor:
“That’s as good a cross as we’ve put in and Robbo was delighted he put that one across. Lee didn’t do much wrong overall.”

On Jack Byrne:
“Jack did fine. With the ball, using the ball. Off the ball, he’s improved no end. We’ve been showing him bits. Yeah, I was pleased with Jack.”

Mick McCarthy’s take from tonight:
“We’ve had four full debuts tonight. Three players have scored their first international goal. Will it make any difference to what happens next Monday night? I don’t know, but any positive going into Monday night is a good thing. Denmark is a completely different fixture, they’ve lost one of their last 31 matches, this was New Zealand’s first match in 18 months.”