SHEER power and resilience had manoeuvred the Republic of Ireland into a strong position in their World Cup qualifying group, but yesterday they were required to call upon other traits, their guts and indomitable spirit, to safeguard an unbeaten record.
Just 15 minutes remained when Steve Staunton produced a telling cross and Niall Quinn's glancing header told, sending the ball inside Peter Schmeichel's right-hand post, the third time the Irish totem had beaten his Manchester rival this season.
A point apiece was to the satisfaction of both teams, who had conceded their first goals of the campaign. It placed Denmark on top of Group Three before Spain's game with Northern Ireland last night while increasing the probability that pole position will belong to Jack Charlton's men come the autumn. At the end, the Irish manager was too grateful to have survived to care about the conclusion of their sequence of seven successive World Cup wins on home territory.
'Before the game I would consider this a point dropped; now it's definitely a point gained,' he said. 'Nobody has worked that hard against us in Dublin for a long while and it was a bit dodgy out there. What this means is that we will have to go to Albania, Latvia and Lithuania needing three wins because three results will not be good enough.'
The European champions returned to their winning formation in Sweden last summer of a lone attacker dragging men behind the ball at every sight of a green-shirted advance. When they took a first-half lead, it put more discipline in their defending, more bite into their tackles and it began to look as if Charlton would have to concede his first defeat in a competitive international at Lansdowne Road.
It was grim stuff, a case of the Irish plugging away and trying to batter down the Danes in time-honoured fashion because there was not enough quality emanating from a pounds 10m-rated midfield to prise them apart.
So well did Marc Rieper and Jakob Kjeldbjerg deal with Quinn and John Aldridge that chances were few and far between. In the 15th minute Ray Houghton shot wide and later struck the outside of the post.
Denmark had the ability in the close control and skills of Brian Laudrup to escape behind the Irish defence where Alan Kernaghan stood in so well for Kevin Moran that he was named man of the match.
But the Irish slipped up in the 27th minute. Pat Bonner was undecided whether to come out of his goal and Paul McGrath headed out weakly only as far as Kim Vilfort, who lobbed the goalkeeper from 25 yards.
'It was quite a funny goal if you are that way inclined,' Charlton said. 'It was not the best shot in the world.'
That could also be said of his team's display and the game in general, though, crucially, Ireland stood firm and substantiated the view that at home, at least, they are well-nigh unbeatable.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); Irwin (Manchester United), McGoldrick (Crystal Palace), McGrath (Aston Villa), Kernaghan (Middlesbrough), Keane (Nottingham Forest), Townsend (Chelsea), Houghton (Aston Villa), Quinn (Manchester City), Aldridge (Tranmere), Staunton (Aston Villa). Substitute: Cascarino (Chelsea) for Aldridge, 63.
DENMARK: Schmeichel (Manchester United); Nielsen (Odense), Rieper (Brondby), Olsen (Seraing), Kjeldbjerg (Silkeborg), Friis-Hansen (Lille), Jensen (Arsenal), Vilfort (Brondby), Pingel (Brondby), Elstrup (Odense), Laudrup (Fiorentina). Substitute: Kristensen (Portsmouth) for Pingel, 61.
Referee: R Harrel (France).
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