Mick McCarthy says having his Republic of Ireland side compared to Irish dancing legend Michael Flatley by Georgia manager Vladimir Weiss is a “huge compliment”.
Weiss, a Slovakian, said in the build-up to Saturday’s European Qualifier in Tbilisi, that Ireland play “with phenomenal energy, just like Michael Flatley dances. There are good dancers in Georgia too, but he is very special. It is easy for me to tell my players what Ireland are going to do, it is not easy for them to stop Ireland”.
McCarthy, whose side can make a big step to Euro 2020 qualification with victory over Georgia, was initially stuck for words after being made aware of the unusual comparison.
“I thought maybe we had good feet when we got the ball,” McCarthy joked in response.
He added: “I think when somebody describes you as somebody who is as brilliant as Michael Flatley, such a wonderful performer and dancer, and a good guy actually, I’ll take that as a huge compliment for my team.
“If anybody who is as good as his sport, his discipline then… because he is excellent at it. So, I will take that as a huge compliment.”
McCarthy is confident Brighton defender Shane Duffy will be fit to play in Saturday evening’s match at the Boris Paichadze Arena after joining up with the squad in midweek.
Duffy sustained a calf injury in a Carabao Cup tie against Aston Villa last month but is set to make a timely return for his country, who also face Switzerland in Geneva on Tuesday.
“He’s fine. I wouldn’t let him train yesterday. I told him he couldn’t train and he said, ‘Why?’, and I said, ‘Because I said so’,” McCarthy said of Duffy, who appears set to maintain his ever-present tag in the campaign.
“I’d been asked by Brighton – he’d done three days in a row, which is fair enough and it was a recovery day, as they now call it and he’s done that.
“But he’ll be training today (Friday), he’s fine. He wanted to train yesterday, but the club [didn’t want him to] – and I have to say they’ve been very good about it, letting him come.
“If he’s fit, he comes anyway, but I would say thank you to Brighton because they’ve been good about it.”
Asked if Duffy would be in the team, McCarthy replied: “It would be kind of ridiculous of me, the way he’s played, the way he’s performed if he’s fit for him not to be in my team, wouldn’t it?
“If you’re looking for one starter, then Shane Duffy… He’s just been outstanding. I’d be bonkers to leave him out.”
Republic of Ireland have won nine of their 10 previous matches against Georgia, drawing the other, but were pushed hard before winning 1-0 in the reverse fixture at the Aviva Stadium in March.
Aaron Connolly received an Ireland senior call-up following his double for Brighton against Tottenham on his full Premier League debut last weekend, but McCarthy is keen to play down expectations for the 19-year-old striker.
When told that Richard Dunne had compared Connolly to all-time record Irish goalscorer Robbie Keane in his “carefree” attitude, McCarthy replied: “I will wait and see him have a few games and see how well he does before I start comparing him to Robbie Keane in any shape or form.
“I think we should just let him make his debut when he does, let’s see how he does. I would love to be comparing him to Robbie at some stage but I am not going to start now.”