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McCarthy on the hunt for first win

Wednesday, 20th March, 2019 4:21pm

Mick McCarthy is set for his first game as manager of the Republic Of Ireland this weekend since taking over the role in November 2018.

This will be McCarthy's second stint in the role and first up is an away trip to Gibraltar on Saturday night in the first of two Euro 2020 qualifiers. Ireland will welcome Georgia to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night for the second game of the international break.

Familiar opponents: Ireland last faced Gibraltar and Georgia in a competitive tie when the trio were all drawn in the same pot for Euro 2016 qualification while Georgia and Ireland were in the same pot for the World Cup 2018 European qualification process.

Ahead of Saturday's tie, McCarthy was dealt a blow this week with news that Southampton striker Shane Long had been forced to withdraw from the squad with a groin injury. The Tipperary native had hoped to make an impression under McCarthy but the injury means he will miss both ties.

Long has been replaced by Millwall's Aiden O'Brien, who won the International Goal of the Year at last Sunday's 3 FAI International Awards. O'Brien joined up with the squad on Wednesday after the team used the artificial pitch at the FAI National Training Centre to prepare for the qualifier away to Gibraltar, who play on artificial surface at their Victoria Stadium.

Although a huge blow to Long, O’Brien comes in after having scored in the FA Cup game against Brighton last weekend and won't be the only latecomer to the squad with Conor Hourihane, Keiren Westwood and Shane Duffy taking a full part for the first time after having arrived late for various reasons.

McCarthy was boosted by the news, however, that Richard Keogh will be available despite breaking his finger in Derby's game last week against Stoke City.

“I did a bit of DIY and got through the game,” he says. “I went for the X-ray and at first they were talking about surgery. This was before I spoke to the hand surgeon and I didn’t particularly want to do that.

“When I spoke to him, I just said, ‘Listen, if there’s a chance of me playing, I just want to carry on playing if that’s at all possible. I don’t want to have surgery’. I’d rather just take the risk, I suppose, and just crack on,” he said.

Earlier in the week Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne was rewarded for his fine form at club level after McCarthy watched the Dubliner produce a man of the match performance in Rovers' 3-0 victory over Sligo Rovers last Friday, earning the 22 year old a call-up to the senior setup. This came after Callum O'Dowda was ruled out due to a knee injury, while Cork's Alan Browne and Ronan Curtis have also dropping out with injury and will not be available to McCarthy.

Euro 2020 Qualifiers

23 March: Gibraltar vs Republic of Ireland

26 March: Republic of Ireland vs Georgia

7 June: Denmark vs Republic of Ireland

10 June: Republic of Ireland vs Gibraltar

5 September: Republic of Ireland vs Switzerland

12 October: Georgia vs Republic of Ireland

15 October: Switzerland vs Republic of Ireland

18 November: Republic of Ireland vs Denmark

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