The Republic of Ireland take on Denmark tonight in a 2020 European Championship qualifier and the timing of the game is ridiculous in my opinion. Most of the players involved in this game will not have played a competitive match in nearly a month by the time the referee blows his first whistle. It is at times like this I often wonder what genius came up with the arrangements for these games, oh and by the way Mick McCarthy,s side take on Gibraltar next Monday night in Dublin, the scheduling has put a lot of pressure on the Irish manager as he knows he has had to keep his squad match fit and fully focussed for the length of time his squad have been together.
The manager not only has had to get his tactics correct on the night to get a result, but he has also needed to keep his players from going stir crazy in the hotel. McCarthy has let the players off the lead over the past couple of days and in return the players have not let him down and behaved like excellent professionals. Mick actually took a lot of advice from his assistant Robbie Keane on what they should do in the circumstances, as during the 2012 European Championships Finals in Poland and the Ukraine the players nearly went mad with been restricted to the hotel most days. This was the way former manager Trappatoni approached things and nobody dared to question the wily old Italian. To mix things up for these couple of games the Irish squad headed to Portugal for a short training camp,mind you I have it on good authority it was a great bonding trip and everything went smoothly.
McCarthy took a twenty three man squad to Portugal which included two new call ups that have had the Irish fans getting very excited to say the least. The two players in question are Bournemouth,s Mark Travers and Bolton Wanderers Luca Connell. Mark is a fantastic goalkeeping prospect and has shown in the premier league he is capable of pulling off spectacular saves to keep his side in the game. Darren Randolph will not be around forever and Mark is showing signs that he can step up if needed and become the Irish man between the posts for a very long time, but the Irish manager will have to bring him along slowly so he can settle into the surroundings of International football. Luca has been involved with a struggling Bolton side this season and his call up has been well deserved. Luca is one for the future but like Travers it is great for the lad that Mick has brought him in to give him a feel for International football. These two inclusions into McCarthy,s squad are great for everyone as we go forward, because let us be honest about it, the Irish team needs as much new blood it can manage to find.
Tonight the wait will be over and the Irish team will take to the pitch to face Denmark in what is most definitely a game they must not lose. Hopefully the manager has got his tactics correct and the players turn up and perform. Unfortunately for the Irish manager he has lost Long, Travers and would you believe it Connell from his squad through injury, it leaves him a bit short of fire power up front but the team are ready. A draw in Denmark and three points against Gibraltar would be a great return from the first four games for the Republic of Ireland and it could set them up to be real challengers in their group. We all know what the Danes are capable of, but if the Irish are set up right and they can manage to get the required draw, it will be something that will but a big smile across Mick McCarthy,s face.
By David Meier