Football/Soccer

Republic of Ireland won't be intimidated by trip to Windsor Park for play-off final, says Mick McCarthy

The Republic of Ireland won't be intimidated by a trip to Windsor Park if they make Euro 2020 play-off final against North says Mick McCarthy
Andy Watters

THE Republic of Ireland’s players will not be intimidated by a trip to Windsor Park should they and Northern Ireland both come through their Euro 2020 play-off semi-finals on March 26, says Mick McCarthy.

McCarthy’s Republic take on Slovakia in Bratislava the same day Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side meets Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica and victories for both will result in a ‘Path B’ final in Belfast on March 31.

McCarthy, who experienced Windsor Park’s partisan atmosphere in a scoreless World Cup qualifier back in 1988, remarked that the Donegall Avenue ground will be “a lovely place to play” but said his concentration was focussed on the trip to Slovakia.

“I’m not going to be intimidated or scared about going to Windsor Park to be quite honest and I don’t think the players would be,” said the former Celtic and Manchester City centre-back in Dublin yesterday.

“If that’s where we end up because we’ve beat Slovakia and they have beaten Bosnia I’ll be delighted. If we end up playing them then that means we’ve won the first game and we’re in the final then, aren’t we?

“But, being intimidated, no, I don’t think so. If Darren Randolph and Matt Doherty or Seamus Coleman and Duffer (Shane Duffy) and John Egan and Enda Stevens and Glenn Whelan get intimidated by going anywhere then we’ve got a real problem but I don’t think that’s the case. It might be the case if it’s kids playing.”

McCarthy hinted yesterday that he will be putting his faith in his experienced players for the trip to Bratislava and, should the Republic win that game, the subsequent clash with Northern Ireland.

When asked how he saw the North’s meeting with Bosnia and Herzegovina going, he replied: “I’ve no idea”.

“Northern Ireland are in Bosnia so they have a real tough task as well. But I’ve not given it that much consideration, the only way it will affect us is if we beat Slovakia so I should really put all my efforts into thinking (about that game).

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a little bit of an eye on it but in terms of who would win it I don’t know.

“I’ve seen Northern Ireland play because we watched most of their games but I haven’t seen Bosnia play and I’m not going to concentrate on them until I’ve got my head round Slovakia.”

In his first stint as manager, McCarthy’s side won in Cyprus and then Andorra on their way to the 2002 World Cup. The Republic last won back-to-back away games in 2016 when Martin O’Neill’s men won 3-1 in Modolva and then 1-0 in Austria with James McClean scoring three of their four goals.

“We all know it’s hard but we’ve got to believe we can (win both),” said McCarthy.

“The first one is the key one and if we win the first one I think we’ll win the second one. It’s all about momentum and if we win the first game, wherever we go I think we’ll win the other one but we’ve got to beat Slovakia first and they are no mugs by any stretch.”

After the disappointment of a goalless draw in Georgia was followed by a 2-0 loss in Switzerland that scuppered the Republic’s chances of automatic qualification for Euro 2020, McCarthy said his side’s display in their final group game against Denmark was the best of his second spell as manager.

“We controlled the game and controlled big parts of it with the ball,” he said.

“I thought that we controlled it without the ball. They had one shot on target and, of course, it ended up in the back of the net.

"So it was the best performance that we have produced. Overall, the complete performance."

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Football/Soccer