Football/Soccer

Mick McCarthy expresses his love for James McClean and David McGoldrick

Republic of Ireland's David McGoldrick grabbed his first international goal against Switzerland on Thursday night

REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy insists James McClean epitomises the team’s never-say-die spirit - and says he “loves the bones” of goal hero David McGoldrick.

Both McClean and McGoldrick conjured a dramatic equaliser against Switzerland on Thursday night to keep their Euro 2020 qualification hopes on track.

After Fabian Schar’s brilliant opener on 74 minutes, the Swiss looked like pocketing three vital points – but in the closing stages McClean won back possession and sent in the cross for McGoldrick to head home.

McCarthy described McClean’s work-rate and attitude as “awesome”, adding: “Whatever he is drinking I'm going to have a pint of it. He’s amazing, just something else.”

A worrying statistic ahead of Thursday night’s crucial encounter in Dublin was none of Ireland’s forwards had hit the net on the international stage – but that all changed when man-of-the-match McGoldrick grabbed his first goal in his 11th appearance.

“'Didzy' has been selfless in his performances,” beamed McCarthy.

“I signed him from Nottingham Forest [for Ipswich Town] and he's just been brilliant for me. I love the bones of him, he's a great kid.”

The age-defying Glenn Whelan produced another solid display in anchoring the Irish midfield on Thursday night and almost grabbed his third international goal in 88 appearances with a rasping drive that came off the Swiss crossbar.

"[Whelan brings] experience, real quality as well, quality in that position,” said McCarthy.

“Does he open teams up with wonderful, raking passes? Well, sometimes, but that's not particularly his job.

"He sits there and does that dirty stuff which is vital in the modern game, certainly. He protects his centre backs and just keeps it ticking over. It would have been lovely if he’d scored."

With the prospect of qualifying for Euro 2020 becoming more realistic with each passing fixture, McCarthy finds himself in an increasingly weird situation where he will hand over the reins to U21 boss Stephen Kenny once the team’s interest in the tournament expires.

The Irish sit top of Group D, three points clear of Denmark, but have three exceptionally tough games against Georgia (a), Switzerland (a) and Denmark (h) over the next two months.

The Swiss have no margin for error following Thursday night’s 1-1 draw in the Irish capital with the return match in Geneva now pivotal to who nets the two qualification spots in the group.

What’s abundantly clear is that McCarthy and his backroom team couldn’t have performed much better since qualification started back in March.

Asked about the team’s impressive fighting qualities, McCarthy noted: “I don't think it is innate; I think you have to create the environment where people want to come and work for you on a daily basis or as I'm doing every month. They want to come first and foremost and play for their country, whether they are sitting on the bench or playing, they still have that same desire to come over. And then enjoy it.

“People have a smile on their face and you get a little bit more out of them. If you get that little 5-10 per cent more out of them because they enjoy being here, it's great.”

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