Wednesday, December 12, 2018

AFTER the madness of the changes to the Irish senior management team in the last couple of weeks it all settled down last week and we had the excitement of the Euro2020 qualification draw in Dublin on Sunday.
We have been drawn in a group with Switzerland, Denmark (who we always seem to be drawn against lately), Georgia and Gibraltar. It was probably as good a draw as we could have hoped for, but it’s still going to be a big ask for us to qualify from the group.
We were extremely lucky in the draw because we were originally drawn in Group C with Germany and the Netherlands, but we were handed a reprieve as only two host nations can be drawn in any one group and Germany and the Netherlands were both host nations along with Ireland so I think the whole country breathed a sigh of relief when that happened.
There is a much greater level of anticipation with a new manager at the helm in Mick McCarthy. Even though it is a tough group, there seems to a belief amongst fans that we can spring a surprise and maybe make it to Euros.
Of course it could be false hope, but only time will tell. The fixtures haven’t been sorted out yet but hopefully they will be kind to us and Mick McCarthy will be able to get us off to a winning start to give us confidence going into the big games later in the group.
We had an OK weekend in the FA Cup. We’re still in the competition after a draw away at Wrexham in the Wales derby.
To be honest, we were very lucky to get away with a draw. Our goalkeeper Joe Day kept us in the game with some very good saves and our centre half Mickey Demetriou made a fantastic clearance off the line to keep the scores level.
In saying that, we had a couple of good chances ourselves but in the end, we were happy to take the draw. The replay is at home next week.
The biggest problem with a replay is that now we have an even busier December than normal. We have eight games this month starting with Cheltenham Town away in the Checkatrade Trophy.
They beat us in the league just over a week ago so there is an element of us wanting revenge but more importantly we want to be in the draw for the next round and be one step closer to another possible game at Wembley.
With so many games in such a short space of time, every player in the squad is going to be needed so there could be changes to the starting line-up for Tuesday’s game.
We have a couple of players returning from injury also which is a big plus for us and hopefully those players can make the difference.
At the weekend we are away to Swindon Town who have just changed their manager in the last couple of weeks. They have improved their performances too.
Their new manager Richie Wellens likes to play open and expansive football but the flip side is that they can be vulnerable to the break and that is something we are very good at.
Richie has brought former Irish International Noel Hunt in as his assistant manager. He was a player I loved watching at Shamrock Rovers when I was playing for their underage sides.
He was always my favourite Shamrock Rovers player even though he was only there for a short period of time. He moved on to bigger and better things in Scotland and then down to Reading in the Premier League.
We should have a good crowd there too because Swindon is only an hour away from Newport and I know that last year when we went there and got a result our away following played a very big part in that victory.
Our supporters have travelled very well this season and I am sure this week will be no exception. I don’t think we have let them down away from home yet so hopefully we don’t start this weekend.

*This column appeared in the 4 December edition of The Nationalist

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