Doherty likely to be fall guy as Stevens looks set to renew link-up with McClean

Barring one adventurous run in which he cut inside a couple of Georgian defenders into their penalty box, Matt Doherty made little impact during the stalemate in Tbilisi.

Doherty likely to be fall guy as Stevens looks set to renew link-up with McClean

No shakin’ Stevens out of this side

Barring one adventurous run in which he cut inside a couple of Georgian defenders into their penalty box, Matt Doherty made little impact during the stalemate in Tbilisi.

As blunt an attacking force as Ireland were, that solitary foray forward, in which he overran the ball out of play, offered little to his cause to keep his place ahead of Enda Stevens.

“You’ll find out the team an hour before kick-off,” was McCarthy’s curt reply to a query about the matter. James McClean’s performance was diabolical on Saturday, but McCarthy is a zealous convert to the church of the Derryman so there is little hope of him being jettisoned in favour of using Doherty in a more advanced role.

The balance and understanding between Stevens and McClean is likely to be relied upon again.

Midfield might just get a Cull

Naturally, considering Glenn Whelan is 35-years-old, it was put to McCarthy that he might consider rotating the Hearts man after playing 90 minutes on Saturday.

“If you’d asked that question directly to him he’d punch you on the nose,” the Ireland boss retorted. “He’s been remarkable.”

McCarthy protected Whelan and the two other underperforming members of the midfield – Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane – from criticism, but it looks as if fresh legs and energy are badly required, especially against a Swiss side that will dominate possession.

Josh Cullen is rated by the Ireland boss and is one wildcard option that shouldn’t be discounted, even if the clamour will be for Jack Byrne’s ascension. Cullen has similar attributes to Whelan, so is capable of screening the defence, while he can also cover ground like Hendrick.

Cullen, on loan at Charlton Athletic from West Ham, doesn’t have the same physical attributes as the Burnley man but his assurance in possession would be a priceless commodity, especially as it will be in limited supply.

Time for Robinson’s retreat

Callum Robinson offered some of the rare flashes of promise during the dying embers of the Martin O’Neill era but the Sheffield United attacker hasn’t kicked on since becoming first choice under McCarthy.

He was hooked in the second half on Saturday after an ineffective display on the right side of attack. His former Preston North End teammate Sean Maguire is well versed in operating from that position and also possesses a burst of speed which Robinson cannot match.

Maguire’s ability in the air must not be discounted because, for all the aspirational talk of playing in a more measured manager, diagonal balls from the left are likely to be a potent weapon and it will be no harm at all to have someone like Maguire capable of giving Ireland something to work off with the second balls.

Risk-free Connolly

Just like McCarthy teased in the week building up to the Georgia game, he insisted that it would not be a risk to start Aaron Connolly this evening. But he spoke as if he wanted to protect him from the arduous task which he knows lies ahead for the lone Irish frontman.

The Ireland manager said they would need to get players around him to support – a difficult task when you consider the likelihood that every time Ireland do venture into the Swiss final third it will be courtesy of a long ball forward when they have been defending deep as a unit.

The hosts will play with three centre backs so that would suggest the space will be in the channels as opposed to directly in behind. With that in mind, operating Connolly on one of the flanks seems more of a possibility.

Whether that makes victory any more likely is an other question altogether.

Moody Mick

Mick McCarthy wasn’t angry, just very disappointed. Like a rueful parent catching their child doing something they shouldn’t, the Republic of Ireland manager wore the look of someone who expected much more.

Here his side are, one victory away from qualification for Euro 2020 – with two games remaining, no less – and the mood was not one of buoyancy, rather a sense of foreboding at the prospect of what lies ahead against Switzerland in Geneva tonight.

“I keep getting messages from people saying: ‘F the begrudgers’,”

That’s them told.

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