Belfast Telegraph

The spirit of Republic drives us on, says Coleman

 

Saving the day: David McGoldrick celebrates his equaliser against Switzerland
Saving the day: David McGoldrick celebrates his equaliser against Switzerland
Confident: Enda Stevens feels McGoldrick can score more

By Damian Spellman

Seamus Coleman has warned the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2020 rivals to beware the nation's innate refusal to give up the fight.

The Republic emerged from their toughest Group D fixture to date, Switzerland's visit to the Aviva Stadium on Thursday evening, with a hard-earned 1-1 draw thanks to David McGoldrick's late header.

Switzerland, ranked 11th in the world, had the better of the game but were unable to push home the advantage given to them by Fabian Schar's fine 74th-minute strike.

And just as they had done in Denmark in June, the Republic fought back and scored a late equaliser.

Asked where that refusal to be beaten comes from, captain Coleman replied: "It's just in us, I think it's in the Irish people and it's in the Irish fans, it's in the Irish players.

"We don't get things handed to us.

"Every one of us out there on the pitch has probably been rejected at some point in our career and you have to have something inside you to keep going, and a lot of our lads out there have that.

"You see Richard Keogh bust a gut every week at club level - he's played 600 games. We've got great characters in our squad and that helps drive us on."

The Republic rode their luck at times, with the Swiss having dominated the midfield battle on a night when highly-rated Borussia Monchengladbach striker Breel Embolo was unable to mark an otherwise impressive individual display with a goal.

Manager Mick McCarthy admitted his side will have to be significantly better in the return game in Geneva next month, and ultimately it seems likely that they will have to beat either Switzerland or Denmark to secure a top-two finish.

The Republic remain top of the pile, three points better off than Denmark and six ahead of the Swiss, both of whom would join them on 11 points should they win their games in hand.

However, Coleman is confident Thursday night's result served as a reminder that there are more than two horses in the race.

Asked what message it sent, he replied: "Just that we're a hard team to beat, we never go away.

"Next month is a massive month for us, but I don't think any team will look forward to playing us either.

"We'll go there with confidence, we'll go there on the front foot. We know we'll probably have to sit in at times, but we're capable of catching teams on the break and we're really looking forward to it.

"I hope everyone goes back to their club now and does well and comes back all guns blazing."

Meanwhile, Enda Stevens is confident there are more goals to come from McGoldrick after seeing him open his international account with a match-saving header against Switzerland.

McGoldrick's 85th-minute equaliser secured a valuable 1-1 draw.

It came with the striker in the process of establishing himself in the Premier League with promoted Sheffield United, a little more than a year after he was left waiting for the phone to ring following his release by Ipswich, and club-mate Stevens was thrilled for him.

He said: "I was buzzing for him. Obviously he had the shot against Gibraltar that deflected in and he got a bit of stick for that, but I'm buzzing for him.

"It was a great goal and you could see by his celebration and his reaction what it meant for him.

"It's hard for him because he's an all-round striker. He drops into pockets and he works so hard to get everyone else playing.

"For him to be in the box, back stick, to win the header, it was great for him.

"It'll only give him confidence now moving forward."

McGoldrick's maiden Republic goal came in his 11th appearance and could hardly have been better timed, with his side staring a first defeat of manager McCarthy's second reign full in the face after Fabian Schar had opened the scoring at the Aviva Stadium.

His contribution changed the narrative heading into next month's difficult trips to Tbilisi and Geneva, with Georgia and the Swiss representing significant obstacles to their qualification hopes. Asked if the game could prove pivotal, Stevens, who will be suspended for the clash with the Georgians after collecting his third booking of the campaign, said: "They all are at the minute.

"There are not many of them left. A point on the board is a point closer to where we want to be and we'll move on now to the next game."

The group is evenly poised with Denmark sitting three points behind Ireland following their 6-0 win in Gibraltar having played a game fewer, and Switzerland, who face the group minnows in Sion tomorrow, six adrift with two games in hand.

The Republic's narrow wins over Gibraltar mean they are likely to have to beat at least one of the group's strongest teams if they are to progress, but Stevens remains hopeful.

He said: "We'll always feel confident. We go until the end."

Fixtures

Tomorrow (5pm): Georgia v Denmark, Switzerland v Gibraltar

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