Belfast Telegraph

McCarthy says sighs of relief 'premature'


Escape: Mick McCarthy’s side could have got a worse draw
Escape: Mick McCarthy’s side could have got a worse draw

By Matt Slater

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has told those who welcomed his side's novel escape from Euro 2020's "group of death" that their sighs of relief were "premature".

Ireland's placing in group D was the highlight in terms of drama at perhaps the most complicated qualification draw in international football history.

With the finals of Euro 2020 being staged in 12 cities across Europe, governing body UEFA limited each qualifying group to two 'host nations'.

There were also several other new 'conditions' in place for Sunday's draw at the Dublin Convention Centre, including a limit on the number of "extreme weather" and "long distance" teams each group could contain, plus a rule keeping Gibraltar apart from Spain and Kosovo away from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

But arguably the most unusual aspect of the draw was Germany's place in the second pot of seeds.

So when Germany were drawn in Group C with Holland, a team back on track after their own surprising slump, the room of assembled European football chiefs and coaches knew which group they wanted to avoid.

That was made clear by the groan that greeted Ireland's ball being the third one picked from the third pot of seeds, only for UEFA's draw computer to say no because Amsterdam, Dublin and Munich are all hosting Euro 2020 games. Ireland were therefore bumped into Group D with Switzerland, Denmark, Georgia and Gibraltar.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, McCarthy said: "Everybody still in that pot thought they were going to end up in that group C. It's the cliched group of death.

"I laughed as I was fully expecting to be in that group, sod's law and all that.

"And then, because the draw is in Dublin, I think some people were thinking there was some skulduggery going on and somebody with their magic fingers on the laptop shifted us.

"But it's a bit of a premature sigh of relief when you have Switzerland and Denmark in the group."

A home defeat by Switzerland during the Euro 2004 qualifiers ended McCarthy's first spell as Ireland boss in 2002 and Denmark thrashed Ireland 5-1 in Dublin last year to clinch a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Denmark and Ireland were also in the same Nations League group this year and, while they traded 0-0 draws home and away, the Danes topped the group and the Irish finished last.

That brought an end to Martin O'Neill's tenure as Ireland boss and gave the 59-year-old McCarthy a chance for a second spell in charge, albeit one that is set to end after Euro 2020 with Under-21 manager Stephen Kenny taking over.

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