We shouldn’t overstate the differences between Mick McCarthy’s Ireland and the previous regime, given that there’s only been a handful of games and nothing Big Mick actually does will shape us long-term, but my god, that was better to watch, wasn’t it?
There was defensive resolve on display, but because of that, an otherwise pointless game against Gibraltar now becomes a case study for how we build-up and create chances in the final third. See? Mick has actually made a game against Gibraltar worth watching. Not all heroes wear capes, but they do have thick Barnsley accents.
Anyway, here are three bets ahead of the ‘big’ clash on Monday night that we’re eyeing up:
First Goalscorer – Shane Duffy (13/2)
This is a really skimpy, yet fair price for a centre half to be a first goalscorer. This is mainly due to the fact that we don’t seem capable of creating a whole lot without Shane Long, given McGoldrick struggles with hold-up play.
However, Ireland’s secret weapon is set-piece delivery and by god, there might not be a better striker of a dead ball in England than Conor Hourihane.
Duffy led all Irish players last year in terms of goals scored in the Premier League and the Gary Doherty protégé is now set to go on a goalscoring frenzy that sees him converted to a striker before being snapped up as back up to Bobby Firmino.
Okay, maybe not – but he’s as likely to score as any Irish player now and that price is good enough for me to get involved with.
Half Time Result – Draw (7/2)
We’re not ever particularly sure what to do with the ball, you know. When teams hand us possession, we look a bit perplexed and you can be sure Gibraltar will be sat firmly on the edge of their 18-yard box, such is the steam train that is Mick McCarthy’s Ireland.
I can see the first 20 minutes frustrating Ireland, and beyond that, 7/2 is a fine price for no goals in the next 25 minutes given our lack of a focal point. Also, the fact we’re depending on James McClean to produce the goods works perfectly in favour of this bet. Please, Mick – just drop him.
Ireland to win and Under 3.5 goals – (15/8)
Let’s be realistic, we don’t do big wins. We also know that Gibraltar won’t be scoring against this unit, no matter how adventurous the centre half partnership of Keogh and Duffy feel. This leaves a goal-shy Ireland requiring four to make this one a loser. Not a chance.
They might have belief. They might have renewed energy, but they absolutely don’t have the clinical nature to put any side to the sword, no matter how many part-timers are in the opposition’s squad. If the infamous words ‘This is Sparta’ meant that a group were ready for war, ‘This is Mick’s Ireland’ probably refers to a solid 1-1 draw, or a comfortable 2-0 against inferior opposition they really should be hitting for four.
Some things never change, regardless of the moving pieces that should dictate them.