By Damian Spellman
Alan Browne was left “gutted” after the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of clinching automatic qualification for the Euro 2020 finals slipped away in agonising style.
Monday night’s 1-1 draw with Denmark in Dublin left Ireland in third place in Group D and facing a play-off campaign in March as the Danes and Switzerland booked their places for next summer.
It might have been so different had Browne’s dipping first-half volley dropped inside of Kasper Schmeichel’s far post rather than slipping just past it, or had a late onslaught yielded the winner Ireland felt their performance deserved.
However, it did not and while there were positives to take from a near miss, the over-riding emotion within the home dressing room was one of disappointment.
Browne said: “Overall, we’re massively disappointed. People will say there’s positives to take from it, but at the moment, we’re all gutted and it’s something we’re going to have to reflect on in the coming days or weeks.
“We’ve got another chance in March, we need to re-group and go again. We’re still gutted about the game tonight, so it’s something we’re going to have to think about in the coming weeks or months.”
Ireland gradually grew into the game and looked the team more likely to break the deadlock when Martin Braithwaite lost Matt Doherty to get his toe to Henrik Dalsgaard’s cross and hand the visitors a 73rd-minute lead.
Doherty made amends with five minutes remaining when he equalised with his first senior international goal, but an all-out assault from McCarthy’s men as the clock ran down failed to pay dividends.
Preston midfielder Browne said: “I don’t think they deserved the goal at that stage of the game. I think we had the better of the chances. It was kind of against the run of play really.
“It knocked us back a peg or two. We came out again, got our equaliser and gave it our all. We left everything out there, but it wasn’t to be.”
McCarthy had nothing but praise for his shattered players after the final whistle, and Browne revealed his message had been clear.
Asked what the manager had said in the dressing room the 24-year-old said: “We left everything out there, gave it our all and just to keep our heads up. We’ve got another chance to qualify. We’re focused on that now.”