McCarthy reaping rewards for consistent selections

On a night players from both sides found it difficult to find their feet, Mick McCarthy didn’t slip up in keeping Ireland on the road to a third successive Euro finals.

McCarthy reaping rewards for consistent selections

On a night players from both sides found it difficult to find their feet, Mick McCarthy didn’t slip up in keeping Ireland on the road to a third successive Euro finals.

If there’s one difference McCarthy has brought to the Ireland set-up is his consistency of selection.

Nine players have started all five qualifiers in the campaign to date, all the more important when the goalkeeper and four defenders account for five of them.

It became nigh-on impossible to second-guess Martin O’Neill’s teams.

And when the left-field calls came, such as Aiden McGeady getting redeployed from the wing to a central role for the trip to World champions Germany in 2014, it appeared the players were equally wrong-footed.

Long gone are the days of McCarthy dabbling in experimentation. He’s 60 now and on his return to a second shot at the Irish job, the Yorkshireman was carrying in his back pocket the lessons of 700 club games. The folly of positioning Roy Keane in central-defence is a distant memory. Pragmatism is the emblem he sports without any hint of apology.

A man of independent mind, he paid little heed to the match-fitness concerns around his midfielders.

Jeff Hendrick’s sparse game-time at Burnley this season didn’t count against him while loyalty was also shown to Conor Hourihane, out of the Aston Villa starting team since the first Premier League game at Tottenham.

That Glenn Whelan has been on the pitch just twice at club level didn’t deter his manager. The fact both of his Hearts games came in the run-up to the international window cemented the spot of one of McCarthy’s go-to generals for such challenging assignments.

An Ireland manager known for maximising the sum of the parts available was always likely to crave consistency.

In contrast to the bustling attack of the visitors, led by Borussia Mönchengladbach’s €20m recruit Breel Embolo, Ireland’s strike-force was rudderless. Three times Embolo got a sight on goal only to lose his footing on each occasion.

His first opportunity came about from Shane Duffy’s slipping too, so it was curious to see the sprinklers further drench the surface at half-time.

McCarthy had pinpointed Callum Robinson as Ireland’s best player in the last home win over Gibraltar but he was a contender for the worst last night. Maybe the tight muscle that ruled him out of training on the eve of the game had an influence but the Preston North End attacker looked lost from the outset.

Aimless runs in and out possession pockmarked his latest display and even after being summoned to the sideline by McCarthy for a pep-talk in the first-half didn’t trigger an improvement.

McCarthy saw enough just 13 minutes into the second half, calling the dazzler ashore for super substitute Alan Judge.

His Sheffield United colleague McGoldrick equally toiled until the late stages, very little being held upon from several of Ireland’s clearances.

Fortunately, his strength in the air told in the end as the Swiss aversion to crosses, evidenced by conceding three late goals against Denmark in March, caught them out again.

Cue wild celebrations reminiscent of McCarthy’s glory days of his first stint. We may not be trekking to Japan and Korea next summer, but a major tournament mainly on home soil will suffice.

The atmosphere at Lansdowne Road may have changed but the chants didn’t.

Inside the first 10 minutes, the singing section housed in the South Stand came alive in unison to convey their dislike for the FAI and their former chief executive John Delaney. It was a familiar outcry, only the target of their ire wasn’t perched in his wide-padded seat in the President’s box feeling sheepish.

When the Swiss conceded a corner within the opening minutes, memories of the last meeting between the nations in Dublin three years ago resonated.

It was the same Havelock Square end that Ciarán Clark availed of slack marking to nod home after only two minutes.

Yann Sommer — clearly once bitten, twice shy — barked out instructions from his goal and this time the cross was cleared. Sommer remained relatively untroubled until the scramble for an equaliser developed.

Between Duffy’s leveller in Denmark and McGoldrick’s here, McCarthy is at least developing one similarity with his predecessor for overseeing late goals.

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