Gibraltar 0 Republic of Ireland 1: McCarthy starts second spell with underwhelming win

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Mick McCarthy started his second spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland with a dire 1-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win over Gibraltar on Saturday.

The 60-year-old – who first managed his country between 1996 and 2002 – took over from Martin O'Neill in November, but any thoughts that he would usher in a new era with a swashbuckling win were soon dispelled.

Gibraltar – ranked 194th in the world – more than held their own in the first half but were ultimately undone four minutes after the restart when Jeff Hendrick stroked home for his second international goal.

The visitors rarely looked like adding to that strike as their Group D campaign got off to a winning start, albeit an extremely underwhelming one.

Ireland were frustrated in the opening stages and had to wait until just before the half-hour mark for their first sight of goal. A superb reaction save from Kyle Goldwin, however, prevented Roy Chipolina's wayward header from finding the back of his own net.  

Chipolina was involved again shortly before the interval, blocking David McGoldrick's goal-bound flick, while Conor Hourihane's free-kick from the left fizzed past Goldwin's post in the first half's closing stages.

Skipper Chipolina was denied a famous goal moments after the restart when Darren Randolph instinctively pawed away his close-range header from a corner.

That sparked Ireland into life and they forged ahead in the 49th minute. McGoldrick sped away from Jack Sergeant down the left and picked out Hendrick, who coolly slotted into Goldwin's bottom-left corner from 15 yards. 

Shane Duffy headed wide from an inswinging free-kick in the closing stages as Ireland ultimately edged to the most slender of wins thanks to Hendrick's solitary moment of quality.

What does it mean? McCarthy desperately needs injection of goals

The new Ireland boss will have been well aware of their woes in front of goal before this game, but failure to comfortably beat a team made up largely of part-time players will have starkly demonstrated the scale of the task he faces. O'Neill's last four games in charge failed to produce a single goal and after such an insipid display against Gibraltar it is not hard to see why. What McCarthy would give to have a striker as prolific as his assistant, Robbie Keane, to call on.

Hendrick shows rare composure

In an Ireland performance riddled with silly mistakes and a distinct lack of quality, the Burnley midfielder kept his cool early in the second half to give his side all three points and help his new boss avoid an embarrassing start to his second spell in charge.

Maguire fails to take chance

Making his first competitive start for Ireland, Preston North End striker Sean Maguire failed to stake his claim for a regular place up front. He rarely threatened the hosts' backline and was eventually replaced by Harry Arter.

What's next?

Ireland continue their qualifying campaign with the visit of Georgia on Tuesday, while Gibraltar host Estonia in a friendly on the same day.

Sweden beat Romania

Elsewhere, World Cup quarter-finalists Sweden made a winning start in Group F as midfielders Robin Quaison and Viktor Claesson both scored in the space of seven first-half minutes in a 2-1 success over Romania.