By Richard Morgan
Football journalist - @Richiereds1976
Gibraltar 0-1 Republic of Ireland: Jeff Hendrick gives Mick McCarthy winning return
Report and highlights as Republic win their opening Euro 2020 clash
Last Updated: 24/03/19 7:07am
Mick McCarthy's second spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland got off to a winning start as Jeff Hendrick's second-half strike saw them edge out Gibraltar 1-0 in their opening European Qualifier on Saturday.
The Burnley midfielder was in the right place to side-foot home the visitors' winner just four minutes into the second half and finally break down some stubborn resistance from the part-timers ranked 194th in the FIFA world rankings.
Gibraltar: Goldwin (8), Sergeant (6), Annesley (6), Roy Chipolina (8), Joseph Chipolina (7), Anthony Hernandez (7), Bardon (6), Walker (8), Olivero (6), De Barr (6), Lee Casciaro (7)
Subs: Priestley (6), Pons (6)
Republic: Randolph (8), Coleman (8), Duffy (7), Keogh (6), Stevens (6), McClean (6), Hendrick (7), Doherty (8), Hourihane (9), McGoldrick (7), Maguire (6)
Subs: Brady (6), Arter (6)
Man of the match: Conor Hourihane
That goal proved enough to give the Republic a vital win - their first in seven competitive matches - in what looks to be a tough Group D that also contains the likes of Switzerland and Denmark.
Blustery conditions in the 2,300-capacity Victoria Stadium made it tricky for both sides and combined with a well-disciplined Gibraltar defence, chances were few and far between.
In fact, the closest the visitors came to making the breakthrough before half-time was when Roy Chipolina inadvertently got a head on to Seamus Coleman's cut back from the right byline, only for Kyle Goldwin's reflexes to prevent an own goal.
It was Goldwin's opposite number, though, who made the best save of the game as the Republic were given a much-needed wake-up call right at the start of the second half.
The home side swung in a corner from the right and Darren Randolph had to be at his agile best to keep out Chipolina's close-range header, a key moment in the game with the Republic taking the lead only two minutes later.
Richard Keogh was named in the Republic starting line-up despite the defender breaking his hand in his last game. The Derby player was cleared to play wearing a lightweight cast, and Mick McCarthy found places for both Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty, as well as strikers David McGoldrick and Sean Maguire.
Meanwhile, opposite number Julio Ribas blended experience with youth as skipper Roy Chipolina marshalled the defence and 19-year-old striker Tjay De Barr was asked to lead the line.
Conor Hourihane's clever pass sent David McGoldrick free down the left and after advancing into the box, the Sheffield United forward's inch-perfect pull-back was calmly converted by the unmarked Hendrick 10 yards out as the Republic scored for the first time in five matches and 446 minutes.
And that proved to be the difference between the two teams as the visitors overcame an artificial pitch and unfavourable conditions to give McCarthy a victorious return and a first competitive win for 17 months.
16y 197d - Jeff Hendrick is the first Irish player to score for the national side under Mick McCarthy since Clinton Morrison netted against Russia in September 2002, 16 years and 197 days ago. Longevity.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 23, 2019
- Ireland have now won each of their three meetings with Gibraltar by an aggregate score of 12-0, with all three coming in European Championship qualifiers
- This was Ireland's first win away from home in any competition since they beat Wales 1-0 in October 2017
- Jeff Hendrick's strike ended a drought of 446 minutes without a goal in all competitions for Ireland since Aiden O'Brien scored against Poland in September 2018
- Mick McCarthy has now won his first competitive match in charge of Ireland in both of his spells with the national side, having beaten Liechtenstein 5-0 in the first such match of his first stint in August 1996
- Gibraltar have lost three consecutive games in all competitions after having only lost two of the five prior to this (W3)
Manager - Mick McCarthy
"What a horrible game. I hated every minute of it playing against a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain. A horrible game but a great three points to start with," McCarthy told Sky Sports.
"Nothing of the game disappointed me or surprised me. People expected they were just going to roll over, not a chance. I'm glad to be out of it with three points."
Man of the Match: Conor Hourihane
The energetic Aston Villa midfielder was easily the Republic's most creative spark on an otherwise lacklustre display in Gibraltar, with all that was good as far as the visitors were concerned coming from him.
The 28-year-old caused any number of problems with his dangerous set plays, in particular one in which James McClean was inches away from connecting with in the first half.
And he also played a key role in his team's winner at the start of the second period, one of the few bright spots for Republic who struggled to create much all afternoon long.
The Republic take on Georgia in Dublin in their next Group D fixture on Tuesday night, while Gibraltar host Estonia in a friendly international on the same evening.
Follow all of Sunday's Euro 2020 Qualifiers live on Sky Sports Football from 4pm and via our live match blogs on the Sky Sports App and skysports.com