Mick McCarthy will launch his second spell as Republic of Ireland manager in Saturday’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier in Gibraltar.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game.
🗣️”Training today, there was a buzz about it!”
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland)March 21, 2019
McCarthy’s predecessor Martin O’Neill guided the Republic to Euro 2016, where they reached the last 16 courtesy of a famous victory over Italy having already beaten world champions Germany on the road to France. However, his final year in charge proved a dispiriting one as wins and even goals proved hard to come by, and fans will hope the new manager takes a more progressive approach.
The fixture list has presented Ireland with a chance to launch their Group D campaign in style. Their only two meetings with Gibraltar to date have yielded 11 goals without reply, while their nine clashes with Georgia have brought eight wins and a draw, although that came in the last game between the nations with the Georgians having proved significantly more difficult to beat in recent years.
Regular Premier League players are few and far between in the Republic squad and it is McCarthy’s misfortune that two of his most accomplished performers play their club football in roughly the same position. Everton right-back Seamus Coleman was named captain by O’Neill with his consistency of performance before he suffered an horrendous double-leg fracture providing a fine example for his team-mates, while Wolves wing-back Matt Doherty has gone from strength to strength since his club’s elevation to the top flight. McCarthy traditionally favours a four-man defence, but has not ruled out the possibility of Doherty taking up a midfield role.
The Republic played nine games in 2018, won just one of them and scored only four goals. With Shane Long injured, McCarthy’s striking quartet of Sean Maguire, David McGoldrick, Aiden O’Brien and James Collins have just 14 appearances and a single goal between them and finding the right combination of players to both create chances and take them will be a major focus.
Back in 2016, the then 19-year-old Jack Byrne so impressed O’Neill that he invited him to train with the senior squad, and he made no secret of his confidence in his own ability. Three years on, former Manchester City trainee Byrne, who has had spells with Cambuur in Holland, Blackburn, Wigan, Oldham and Kilmarnock, is now back in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers, for whom he chose the right moment to score against Sligo Rovers in front of the watching McCarthy last Friday night.