Mick McCarthy happy to keep the Republic of Ireland seat warm for Stephen Kenny
A SOBER Sunday in Dublin. Just as well it was, if only to get a handle on the FAI’s vision for the Republic of Ireland over the next four years.
After 48 hours of speculation – and confusion – Mick McCarthy was unveiled as senior team manager for the second time in his career in the press conference room on the ground floor of the Aviva Stadium.
It was a far cry from the swooning of Brian Kerr in the Shelbourne Hotel, or Mansion House where Steve Staunton was presented to the media.
Giovanni Trapattoni was afforded the vast expanse of the RDS while the Gibson Hotel provided a luxurious backdrop to Martin O’Neill’s unveiling.
The stage afforded to Mick was distinctly less salubrious, probably to do with the swiftness with which the FAI acted in getting O’Neill’s successor in place ahead of next Sunday’s Euro 2020 draw in the Irish capital.
Surrounded by a posse of photographers, the 59-year-old former Irish captain relinquished the reins at the tail end of 2002, post-Saipan, only to be enticed back 16 years later.
There was no whooping or hollering in the room. That kind of giddy reception might be reserved for League of Ireland hero and ex-Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny (inset) this afternoon, who will be crowned McCarthy’s successor in two years’ time.
'International managers should be given one term'
There was a decidedly weird feeling about McCarthy’s various meet-and-greet sessions with the broadcast and print media.
Mick McCarthy: “I thought I might get two terms. Who doesn’t want two terms, come on. But the reality is that I think that international managers should be given one term"
Mick has arrived pic.twitter.com/u0swlcexKV— Brendan Crossan (@CrossanBrendan) November 25, 2018
The new manager was only through the door when he was being asked about his departure.
How did he feel about keeping the senior seat warm for new U21 manager Stephen Kenny who will be promoted to the top job after Euro 2020?
McCarthy revealed he knew “from the off” about Kenny taking over from him once the Republic’s interest in Euro 2020 expires, regardless of how well he performs in the job.
He explained that he considered everything and was “happy to accept” the slightly odd contract conditions put to him after meeting FAI chief John Delaney and High Performance Director Ruud Dokter last Friday, just three days after O’Neill and Roy Keane were let go.
“At the time, I wasn’t so sure,” McCarthy confessed.
“I thought I might get two terms. Who doesn’t want two terms, come on. But the reality is that I think that international managers should be given one term.
“Perhaps they should be given the chance to take it into the next term if they do well. But I knew that wasn’t the case so I accepted it and was fine with it.”
After leaving Ipswich Town at the end of last season, McCarthy was desperate to return to management and therefore never considered giving the FAI an ultimatum.
“I wanted the job. They could have said: ‘Take it or leave it’ – and they could have said: ‘See you’, and they would have got somebody else.
“They might have gone and given it to Stephen, and I wanted it. Honestly, it’s a real honour, a privilege and pleasure to be getting it back.
“I’d all those questions: ‘Well, what happens if I do well, if we qualify?’
“I’ve just got to accept that’s the case.
“It’s not such a bad thing. And good luck to Stephen. I looked at his list of achievements – pretty damn good. And I think it would be great for Irish football if he could take over a team that’s doing well and progress.”
He added: “And it would probably be remiss of the FAI and Irish football if somebody of his ilk decided he was not going to take the job in two years’ time, after the U21s….
“It’s a long time, who knows? We could do really well. Somebody could come in and nick him. I’ve no idea. But I’m happy with it, genuinely happy with it.”
'I hope I'm leaving Stephen Kenny with a good team'
McCarthy insisted he feels under no extra pressure by Kenny’s presence and that he could use the next two years as a springboard to get other managerial jobs.
“I squared the circle in my own head – I’ll get another job elsewhere, I’ll go and do something else.
“And that is probably right that you do that – do well, go on, get another job and let Stephen come in and do it. I hope I’m leaving him with a good team.”
McCarthy also reasoned he stayed too long in the job the first time around and that he should have walked away after the 2002 World Cup finals. Instead, he stayed on for the start of Euro 2004 qualification but after two bad results he left, undoubtedly under severe pressure after his dramatic fall-out with Roy Keane in Saipan several months earlier that tarnished Ireland’s World Cup campaign.
Accompanying McCarthy at yesterday’s press conference was assistants Terry Connor, whom he’s worked with since the mid-Noughties, and Robbie Keane.
McCarthy described Keane as a “cheeky bollocks” for asking him to make him part of his backroom team.
Keane is signing up to do his coaching badges, but even without the formal qualifications McCarthy feels Ireland’s record goalscorer can be a huge influence during their Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
“Robbie can bring a freshness to it. He’ll have ideas, the clubs he has played for, the way we plays.
“He’ll challenge me as well on things because he’s got an opinion. Not always one I agree with – but he has got an opinion and I like that.
“He has vast experience of playing. It’s my appointment – he’s not coming in via anywhere else. I think he will be good for the younger players and he’ll be getting in some coaching sessions along with ‘TC’ [Terry Connor], but ultimately I’ll be doing the organisation of what we do for match days.”
Warm handshakes were exchanged and some embraces too with a few newspaper reporters who were on the beat when McCarthy managed between 1996 and 2002.
It was like an old friend had returned home, but it was different from the last time – a lot different.