Mick McCarthy accepts that to reach the Euro 2020 Finals, the Republic of Ireland will now have to do it the hard way, after this morning's play-off draw put two away games in their path.
The draw, which was made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, this morning, gave home advantage in the Path B Play-off final to the winners of the semi-final between the hosts Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
One of 16 countries contesting the play-offs, Ireland already knew that, as one of the lower-ranked sides, they would be playing away in their semi-final, against Slovakia, on Thursday, March 26, 2020, with the venues yet to be confirmed.
Should Northern Ireland and the Republic win their respective semi-finals, it would mean an ‘All-Ireland Final’ would take place at Windsor Park, five days later, on Tuesday, March 31.
“It’s par for the course isn’t it?,” said McCarthy in Nyon. “It is (harder) but I’m not worried about it. If I start worrying about it now, what is the point?
“We’ll hopefully have two games to play and, if we win the first in Slovakia, we’ll fancy our chances of going anywhere and getting a result.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy has said that he thinks Slovakia and Ireland are on “a level playing field” but for the former’s home advantage in the semi-final.
“It will be a difficult game, I have no doubt,” he said. “They were in Wales' group so I am sure I will be able to get info on them, though we can get it anyway from our analysts.
“It's a tough game. People have said to me, ‘you'll be playing one of the poorer sides, one of the third teams in the group’ and I said ‘yes, exactly like us, that's what we were’. It's a level playing field except that they have the home tie. That has an impact on it: the venue, the crowd getting behind them, the fact that they feel happier at home and don't have to travel. That does have an impact and influence. Whether it has such a big influence, we will see.”
Speaking to FAI TV, the manager went on: “I'd like to take that Denmark performance into the game. We played well in that game, probably our best performance. It was always going to be a tight game and I did anticipate that if it was 0-0 with 20 minutes to go we could have a go at it, a real go, as if you go at Denmark too early you get punished.
“I get asked by the press about momentum (or) the disappointment of not winning, if that carries on. I don't think either carries on. We play on March 26th, and the players might have another 20 games for their clubs before we meet up again.”
Asked if there was added motivation to qualify for the Euro 2020 Finals because of games being hosted in Dublin, the manager replied: “It's no more motivation than if we were playing in Timbuktu because I want to be in the Euro finals. I want to take the team there, the players want to get there
“There is more pressure, for all of us, for me, the players and the staff, that we have these games in Dublin if we qualify, that heaps the pressure on. Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Mick, the country’s right behind you, you’ve gotta do it for the country’. And I thought, ‘yes, I know I have’. Nothing extra would make me want to win a game of football, to be quite honest. That’s for me personally. But for the nation, for Ireland, it does mean a lot more of course.”
In Path A, Hungary will travel to Bulgaria, with the winner hosting either Iceland or Romania in the final.
In Path C, Scotland will host Israel, with the winner travelling to the winner of Norway v Serbia.
In Group D, it was determined that the winner of the semi-final between Georgia and Belarus will host the final against either North Macedonia or Kosovo.