Much as he was satisfied with the ample positives of Ireland’s 3-1 win against New Zealand, arguably the biggest lesson Mick McCarthy will take from that sideshow game into Monday’s crunch encounter with Denmark is that some of the blemishes of Thursday’s performance could, if not eliminated, prove fatal against Christian Eriksen and company.
“We can’t give them on Monday some of the space we gave New Zealand, that’s for sure,” he says. “We’ll have to be really rock solid and tight.
“We saw it over there: We drew 1-1 but I’ve looked back at it a number of times and they opened us up a few times and we made a good save and a couple of good blocks.
“But I’ve no doubt they can be got at. I’m not saying they are unbeatable because they’re not.
“But they are a completely different team (to New Zealand), a team which has only lost one in 31. You’ve got to respect that.
“I don’t think that that’s the recipe for sitting back and inviting all the pressure because I’m not suggesting that either. But I think it’s got to be a very considered press to make sure we do it properly and do it together, and make sure we all defend well.
Again, McCarthy is keen to stress that the best things about the friendly win — not least the goals scored by three players opening their international accounts — can’t but be of strictly limited value in terms of what awaits on Monday.
Asked if he feels more upbeat about Irish prospects on the back of Thursday’s victory, he chuckles in response.
“I guess if New Zealand’s back four is playing against us on Monday as opposed to the Denmark back four then, yes, I would be,” he says.
“But it won’t be. It’ll be their boys. I don’t want to be disrespectful to New Zealand, I’m not being that, but they’re just not the Denmark team.
“New Zealand were good with the ball and could have created more chances but we should have won by more.
“We should be beating New Zealand at home, there’s no question about that. And we did. It will have no bearing or reflection on Monday night.
“But Sean (Maguire) will feel better about himself and Robbo (Callum Robinson) will feel better about himself and, Derrick (Williams) will as well of course.
“The lads played well and it just helps that we’re going into the game on a win.”
Indeed, Maguire’s first goal in seven outings, capping an all-round lively performance, left McCarthy feeling he would have no qualms about turning to the ex-Cork City man if required on Monday.
“Not at all, certainly after that. You keep saying to me it was a trial for Robbie (Brady): It was a trial for all of them.
“I thought Sean was really good so I wouldn’t have any fears with him at all.
“I was pleased he got his goal in the end. Me being a defender, I’d want to have a clean sheet. I wasn’t a striker but I know they want to score goals. No matter how they play, they want to contribute by scoring goals. It was a great finish.
“And Callum as well: That’s one of the things we talked about in the meeting before the game, about getting inside that far post and getting on the end of something. So something sank in.”
While McCarthy observed that Troy Parrot “did himself no harm” on Thursday, the reality is the manager will largely revert to his first-choice personnel for Monday.
“It doesn’t take too much guesswork that, does it?” he says of his likely starting line-up.
“They’re the tried and tested so, for all these have done well against New Zealand, they are the ones that have lost one out of seven, most of them, to be fair.”
Asked if he would be saying or doing anything different from the norm over the weekend’s build-up to the big one, McCarthy replied:
So there will be no talk in camp about the almost certain fallback of a spring play-off?
“Is there one? Really? I’m not interested. They’ll know about it, of course, but they won’t be thinking about it. They’ll want to qualify and do it here. We know what we’ve got to do: We’ve got to win. There is no other result that’s going to count for us.”
And will the sheer magnitude of the occasion be a source of inspiration or pressure?
“Oh, it should be inspiration. Walking out and standing in front of that crowd for the national anthem, that was always a great source of inspiration. And I think it is for these lads. The lads who have been playing are all pretty well battle-hardened.
“The Premier League players have been doing it and, if any of the others come in, they won’t have any problem.
“I think it inspires them, not anything else.”