McCarthy hoping Republic of Ireland can ‘annoy’ Denmark once again

Mick McCarthy is hoping the Republic of Ireland live up to the label of Denmark’s “most annoying” opponent in Copenhagen on Friday night.

Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney, who described playing against Ireland in a World Cup play-off stalemate at the Telia Parken Stadium in 2017 as “like trying to open a can of baked beans with your bare hands”, issued the back-handed compliment as he assessed the fifth meeting between the sides in 18 months in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

McCarthy said: “I doubt it was a compliment that, was it? Was it said in a derogatory way or a complimentary way?

Denmark’s Thomas Delaney admits the Republic of Ireland have proved a tough nut to crack in recent times
Denmark’s Thomas Delaney admits the Republic of Ireland have proved a tough nut to crack in recent times (Niall Carson/PA)

“Oh well, that’s kind of him then, and I hope we are as annoying to him tomorrow night as well.”

Delaney’s frustration with Ireland is perhaps well-founded. Three of the four most recent meetings have ended 0-0 with the Danes’ 5-1 victory in Dublin in November 2017 in stark contrast to the other games.

However, all four were played under previous manager Martin O’Neill and while McCarthy freely admits he would have stayed at home if he had been offered a point in advance, he insists his team will try to win the latest encounter ahead of Monday night’s visit of Gibraltar.

He said: “I’d be thrilled with a draw. If I’d been offered a draw, I wouldn’t have got on the plane. I’d have stayed at home, took the point and played against Gibraltar.

“That doesn’t mean to say we’re coming here just to sit back and try to get a draw, we’re coming here to try to win game and we’ll approach it in a very attacking, aggressive way.”

Ireland opened their campaign in March with back-to-back victories over Gibraltar and Georgia, but McCarthy is well aware that Denmark represent a very different proposition.

Asked if he felt Age Hareide’s side has an “evil spirit”, he replied with a smile: “No I don’t, I just see them as a very good football team with some good players – and they’ve got one real star, certainly, in [Christian] Eriksen who would grace most teams around the world.

“But it would be remiss of me to put it on him because they have got some very good players as well and they’re effective.

“Age Hareide has been here for a while now. They’ve lost one competitive game, I believe, and they have a really good way of playing – and when they haven’t got ball, they’re as solid as pretty much most teams I’ve seen. So not an evil spirit, just a good team.”

Given their recent record, there is perhaps more pressure on Denmark to get a result than on Ireland, and McCarthy will be happy if that has an effect on them.

He said: “The pressure is on both of us, isn’t it? But it’s their home game, so there’s a weight of expectation.

“The expectancy for a country of five million people, they expect to be qualifying for World Cups and European Championships and looking to win them, so there’s an expectancy there and if that adds a bit of pressure, then great.”