'We have worked on creating more goal chances' - Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy
European 2020 Qualifying Group D: Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland (tonight, Victoria Stadium, Gibraltar, 5pm kick-off Irish time)
REPUBLIC of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has revealed he was forced to make a swift tactical tweak to training to increase the number of goal chances the players were creating.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s Euro 2020 qualifier opener in Gibraltar, the new manager let the players at it on the first day of training but was forced to make changes for the second day.
“The first training session, I wasn’t happy with the amount of chances that we were creating, or players getting in the box,” McCarthy explained at yesterday’s pre-match press conference.
“TC [Terry Connor] put a great session on exactly for that and we gave them the feedback on the night, and just showed the difference between how you can do it.
“We’ve got to do it in a game of course, doing it in training is one thing. We have worked on it, and that’s pretty much all you can do, give players information in terms of wanting people to get in the box, putting crosses in the box, however you get in there, and just try and create more chances and have more bodies there, on the move, and trying to score - and hopefully we do.”
In the closing stages of Martin O’Neill’s reign, the side were derided for a lack of attacking quality.
In their last four games in 2018 the Republic couldn’t muster a goal.
Since Jack Charlton’s departure in 1995, McCarthy, Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton, Giovanni Trapattoni and O’Neill have held the hot-seat – but the most attractive football the Irish played during those various reigns was arguably under McCarthy.
Despite having only time for a handful of collective training sessions, McCarthy was not making excuses.
Asked if he felt he was cramming for an exam ahead of tonight’s opener, the manager replied: “I’m not quite sure because I left school at 16 to go and play for Barnsley. I didn’t cram for too many exams, I can assure you.
“It’s just as well I managed to play football. Whenever you walk into a football club – and I remember walking into Ipswich Football Club on the Wednesday and I’d got a game on the Saturday – so you’ve just got to get on with it. It’s not like something I haven’t done before.
“I’ve prepared for 965 other games, so you prepare in exactly the same way. I’ve got good, experienced players and I’ve got good staff.”
Describing tonight’s hosts as “committed and organised with some good technical players”, McCarthy expects Gibraltar to be dangerous at corner-kicks and throw ins.
“They have [Roy] Chipolina who has a throw in that makes mine look like a short one and [Liam] Walker, their corner-kick specialist, doesn’t waste too many so they’re a capable team, they’ve got some good players.”
After giving up the job at the tail end of 2002, McCarthy is back at the helm 17 years later and is looking forward to his second stint in charge of his country.
“The butterflies are there already. I have got that feeling and I’m glad I have it. If I lose that there is something wrong.”