McCarthy puzzled by the negativity as Ireland sit on the summit

Mick McCarthy couldn't work it out.

McCarthy puzzled by the negativity as Ireland sit on the summit

Mick McCarthy couldn't work it out.

There Ireland were, top of the group on the back of Monday night's win against Gibraltar in Dublin and yet the mood inside and outside the dressing-room in the Aviva Stadium was that of a side looking up the table from the basement rather than one with a panoramic view from the summit.

As was the case with Martin O'Neill before him, and Giovanni Trapattoni before that, McCarthy found himself facing a succession of queries about the paucity of the performance his team had delivered as opposed to the points they had just put on the board.

His irritation was obvious, the calm exterior and measured voice betrayed by the curt nature of some of the answers and, at times, the very words he offered up in his post-match press conference and TV interviews.

“I'm amazed actually at the reaction at just winning 2-0,” said the Republic's manager. “I went into the dressing room and said, 'lads, you've got ten points and we've just won'. I'm happy. I'm off on my holidays and I've got ten points.”

McCarthy is nothing if not a straight talker and he was quick to pour water on any suggestion that maybe the performance had been adversely affected by the fact that the team arrived late to the stadium after the bus had broken down.

“If you are asking me to blame that then absolutely not,” he said with undisguised impatience. “They've flown in from Georgia (where they lost 3-0). We came from Castleknock. The bus broke down. Things break down.”

The answer was vintage Mick when asked to elaborate on the problem.

“It wouldn't go any further.”

Getting into double digits was McCarthy's target for the first four fixtures in Group D when the qualifier draw was made late last year. That Ireland have reached that staging point on schedule despite some iffy performances against the group's minnows is immaterial to the man.

And in a way he has a point. Goal difference may count when the group is done should Ireland find themselves tied on points with another side but there are five separating criteria that would need to be exhausted before goals scored against Gibraltar come into it.

“I think you're all very disrespectful to Gibraltar talking beforehand about a festival of football and scoring five goals,” he said. “Yes we could have scored more but we haven't. If someone beats us on goal difference I'll tell you then that I regret it but we have ten points.”

McCarthy knows this wasn't great. He was particularly disappointed with the first-half display and spoke about how it wasn't his plan to attack so much through the middle when Gibraltar were stationing a sitting midfielder on the apex of their 'D'.

He'd like to have scored more goals but his take is that it wasn't for the want of trying. Repeatedly, McCarthy pointed to the volume of crosses, shots and balls in the box that Ireland engineered without reward. “Wasteful,” was the word he used.

So, halfway through proceedings and Ireland are top of the pile but with work to do on their game. McCarthy acknowledged the fact that the task from here will be harder. There will be no more gimmes against Gibraltar, a trip to Tbilisi awaits. So too games against Denmark and Switzerland.

No bad thing, if you go along with McCarthy's reasoning.

“We've played pretty poorly against Gibraltar but beaten them and we've had two better performances against the better sides so it will be a more open game against Switzerland. So I would expect us to play like we did against Georgia and Denmark and Switzerland.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox