PARIS – Mick McCarthy made an inauspicious start to his second stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland as his team laboured to a 1-0 Euro 2020 qualifying victory over Gibraltar on Saturday.
The 60-year-old McCarthy, who led Ireland to the 2002 World Cup last 16 before resigning later that year, was reappointed manager last November, replacing Martin O’Neill.
The result leaves Ireland second in the early Group D table behind Switzerland, who beat Georgia 2-0, but McCarthy will know he has plenty of work to do after seeing his men struggle to claim just their second win in 12 matches.
The visitors failed to break down a stubborn Gibraltar in the first half despite dominating possession, with Wolves full-back Matt Doherty starting in midfield to accommodate captain Seamus Coleman at right-back.
Gibraltar almost took a shock lead straight after the restart, but captain Roy Chipolina saw his header brilliantly saved by Darren Randolph.
Ireland took the lead less than two minutes later, though, as Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick slotted home his second international goal from David McGoldrick’s cutback.
But Gibraltar did not give up and almost found an equaliser when 37-year-old forward Lee Casciaro curled wide after a fine team move.
Ireland should have added a second late on, only for Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy to head wide with the goal gaping, as their travelling fans were left with only a single goal to cheer against the 194th-ranked team in the world.
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.
Claudiu Keseru pulled one back for the away side in Stockholm, but Sweden held on, while 10-man Malta saw off the Faroe Islands 2-1 in the group’s other game.
Earlier on Saturday, Switzerland safely negotiated a tricky trip to Georgia thanks to second-half goals from Steven Zuber and Denis Zakaria.