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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
McCarthy's relief after draw
The Republic picked up their level of performance hugely in the second half
McCarthy's half-time talk inspired his players

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy spoke of his "blessed relief" after his side had claimed a battling 1-1 draw against Cameroon in the opening game of their World Cup campaign.

McCarthy came into the game under huge pressure after the furore surrounding his axing of captain Roy Keane from the World Cup squad.

"I've had the hardest week possible but coming into the game today was a blessed relief.

"It's nice to be walking away without being beaten," said McCarthy.

"The game was a great advert for football.

"In the first half we gave up the ball too easily and their two centre forwards were causing us problems.

McCarthy felt his side gave the ball away too much in the first half
McCarthy shouts instructions to his men

"I thought we played far, far better in the second half.

"I give my hearty congratulations and a pat on the back to all the players," added McCarthy.

McCarthy, vulnerable after his shock decision to axe Keane, delivered a half-time team talk to rouse his players.

"We were individually and collectively poor in the first half.

"We sorted a few things out at half-time...there's a sign on the board (in the dressing room) saying 'No Regrets', and we all know it's there.

"The players went out after the break and made sure we didn't have any.

"If we had played in the first half the way we did in the second, we would have had a few."

McCarthy felt goalscorer Holland had been man of the match.

Open Quote
It's not about one man
Close Quote
Mark Kinsella

"But Mark Kinsella was not far behind," McCarthy said.

"Together they were superb...I bear no malice (to Keane) in that comment, but the pair were under a lot of pressure to perform and I thought they were magnificent."

Kinsella, who effectively replaced Keane in the starting line-up, said: "It's not about one man, the team spirit here is immense.

"We worked really hard for each other and got our rewards."

Holland added: "Any team would miss a world class player like Roy Keane, but we have no choice and I think we did well.

"The coach told us not to waste two years of hard work in the space of one game. It worked and we responded."

Holland declared himself more than satisfied with the result.

Trailing to Patrick Mboma's first-half strike, the Ipswich midfielder produced a sweetly-struck right-foot shot from 25 yards to equalise in the 52nd minute.

And that sparked a spell of Irish pressure which almost saw them snatch a winner.

But Holland was happy that the side had got a point on the board in their first game.

"In the second half we had a lot of chances but but it was a good performance nonetheless and we are pleased with the result," said Holland.

"I scored a couple like that in the qualifying games and it was nice to do it here.

"Hopefully it will stand us in good stead. It was a crucial that we didn't get beat today and let's see what we can do from here."

Ireland face Germany in their second group game on Wednesday, before winding up their group E campaign against Saudi Arabia on 11 June.


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"We played far better in the second-half"
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GROUP E
  P GD PTS
GERMANY 3 +10 7
IRELAND 3 +3 5
CAMEROON 3 -1 4
SAUDI ARABIA 3 -12 0




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