Enda Stevens has challenged the Republic of Ireland to keep skipper Seamus Coleman’s Euro 2020 dream alive in his absence when they face Denmark in a winner-takes-all shoot-out next month.
The Republic will lower the curtain on their Group D campaign against familiar foes at the Aviva Stadium on a night when victory would almost certainly send them to the finals.
However, they will have to achieve it without 31-year-old Everton full-back Coleman, who will be suspended following his dismissal for two bookable offences in Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat in Switzerland just 10 days after receiving his marching orders for his club at Burnley.
Asked if that could provide added motivation, Stevens said: “Yes, that’s what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to do it for each other.
“Seamus is so disappointed in there, but he’ll be the one giving us a pat on the back now against Denmark and he’ll be still leading the line for us. He’ll be cheering us on and giving us that confidence to go out and perform.”
The game will be the sixth meeting between the sides in two years, a run of fixtures which has resulted to date in four draws and a thumping 5-1 World Cup qualifier victory for the Danes in Dublin.
That has to change this time around if Ireland are to progress, and Sheffield United defender Stevens, who returned from suspension in Geneva after losing his ever-present tag for the campaign in Georgia three days earlier, is in no mood to pass up that chance.
He said: “They (Switzerland) were saying it was a cup final for them, we said it was a cup final for us tonight. Fortunately we’ve got another cup final now next.
“We would have taken one win out of two games gets you to the Euros, so we’ve got to look forward to that, and especially being at home in the Aviva Stadium.
“Hopefully we can really knuckle down and get the three points that we need.”
Ireland were under the cosh at the Stade de Geneva after Haris Seferovic had fired the home side into an early lead, but they kept themselves in the game, thanks in part to keeper Darren Randolph, who turned away a Seferovic header and then saved Ricardo Rodriguez’s 77th-minute penalty to give them hope until Shane Duffy’s late own goal ended it.
Stevens said: “He (Randolph) kept us in the game and we were pushing and pushing, and it was obviously disappointing to concede the second goal in the last minute.
“To be fair, Darren got me out of jail a few times with corners and that, so he was excellent all night. He’s been doing that at Middlesbrough all throughout the season, so you kind of expect them from him now at this stage.”
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