The Mick McCarthy era Part II sees Ireland’s quest for Euro 2020 qualification being against a fast-improving Gibraltar side. Daniel Griffin of footballgibraltar has the lowdown on the new look hosts.
It is safe to say that a lot has changed for both sides since their last meeting back in September 2015, most notably in terms of the location for the game – while Faro was the destination for Ireland’s 4-0 win then, this match will be held at the Victoria Stadium, which will help the home side no doubt, especially on the much-talked about artificial surface.
Perhaps surprisingly, Gibraltar won more games in 2018 than Ireland – the Nations League bore great fruit for Julio Ribas’ side, who won twice in three days away at Armenia and at home to Liechtenstein, while 12 months ago the national side beat Latvia in a friendly. However, we shouldn’t kid ourselves here – the Euro Qualifiers are a completely different ball game so to speak, and Gibraltar would do well to pick up points let alone wins in what is a tough five-team Group D.
At the time of writing, the squad had yet to be announced, with various key players being assessed for injuries before the final squad was revealed at almost the 11th hour. However, if the squad, and starting line-up is as expected, then as many as five of the eleven who started in Faro back in 2015 would be in line face Mick McCarthy’s side on Saturday evening.
One of the players who wasn’t anywhere near the national team then, but has quickly developed into arguably Gibraltar’s brightest young prospect in some time is Tjay De Barr. The 19-year-old, who scored the opening goal in the 6-2 loss to Armenia in what was only his fifth cap, currently plays in Gib for Europa FC, but is expected to make a move abroad in the summer, having already had trials at Rio Ave in Portugal and Las Palmas in Spain this year. If he starts, it will be interesting to see how he gets on against easily the best team he’ll have faced in his fledgling career.
Realistically, Ireland should win this comfortably. For all the worries about the artificial surface, and the numerous injury withdrawals Ireland have suffered, they should still have more than enough to pick up three comfortable points, backed by a strong Irish contingent in the 2,000-seater stadium. However, for Gibraltar, the best thing would be for them to show that they aren’t being completely outclassed – if they can nick a goal or two then that would be an even bigger bonus. In the end though, I would expect Ireland to win by a similar scoreline that they did in Faro.