Mick McCarthy admitted he did not enjoy his first game back as Republic of Ireland manager after seeing his players scrap their way to a 1-0 victory over Gibraltar.
Jeff Hendrick’s second-half goal clinched three points in Ireland’s first Euro 2020 qualifier on an artificial pitch at a windswept Victoria Stadium on a night which was far from memorable for the Irish contingent among the crowd or indeed in the dugout.
McCarthy said: “It was a horrible game. I’ve not enjoyed one single minute of it. Playing against a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain, it was a horrible game.
“It was a difficult surface, but no excuses, we’ve not played particularly well on it.
“I was asked in here the other day about momentum, and I said the only way to get that is by winning, which is exactly what we’ve done.
“This was set up for an upset – playing on the plastic, blowing a gale, a team that have been together and done all right and have some decent players. It was set up for an upset.
“I said that to the players before. I said, ‘All you can do is turn up, you win and you get three points’. We’ll play better – and we’ll play better and lose, probably.”
Hendrick’s 49th-minute winner came as the Republic responded to their biggest scare of the night when goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to pull off a fine reaction save to keep out defender Roy Chipolina’s header seconds after the restart.
The Burnley midfielder fired home after David McGoldrick had broken down the left and produced an inviting cross for him to convert.
Asked about Gibraltar’s performance, McCarthy said: “I thought they were brilliant. They were committed, had a right go at it. Darren Randolph has my man of the match for keeping it at 0-0.”
Indeed, McCarthy headed home hoping Julio Ribas’ side may cause damage to Ireland’s other Group D rivals.
He said: “I get all your questions. It’s supposed to be easy coming here, isn’t it? You’ve all seen that it’s not easy.
“Whether they do that against other teams or not, I don’t know. It’s up to the other teams to come here and win. Just like we’ve done.
“They were good and I hope they play like that against every other team.”
Ribas was delighted with his side’s performance, if ultimately disappointed with the result.
He said: “They know they [the players] have done well. But we won’t get carried away with the fact that it was a good performance.
“They have done well and we will keep the momentum going over the next few days going into the Estonia game.
“Ireland are a big team for us to play, they are in the top 40 of the FIFA world rankings with a good history of beating top teams in the past.
“For us to do this today, it’s a good performance. We are making good progress.”