Football/Soccer

Mick McCarthy moves closer to Republic of Ireland return

Mick McCarthy
By Padraig Kelly

MICK McCarthy is expected to be officially unveiled as the new Republic of Ireland manager tomorrow after meeting Football Association of Ireland officials on Friday.

It is understood that an offer was made and agreed in principle with McCarthy’s backroom team set to include all-time record Irish goalscorer Robbie Keane and Terry O’Connor, who was his assistant at Ipswich Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It will be the 59-year-old’s second spell managing the team having previously taken charge from 1996 to 2002.

It’s a quick turnaround after the announcement that Martin O’Neill and his backroom team had parted company with the FAI on Wednesday, just two days after the side’s Uefa Nationals League campaign ended with a goalless draw in Denmark. The fact that the Euro 2020 draw is set to take place in Dublin next Sunday is likely to have expedited the process.

McCarthy, who left Ipswich in April, was quickly installed as the favourite to replace O’Neill although a number of other names were linked to the position, most notably Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny.

Despite a deal with McCarthy appearing close, a number of League of Ireland clubs threw their weight behind Kenny’s bid yesterday.

St Patrick’s Athletic were the first to endorse the Dubliner through a statement on their club website.

"We believe Stephen Kenny is the best candidate and that he has proven he has the experience, knowledge, commitment and intellect to change the current direction of the Irish senior team,” it read.

Kenny’s former club Derry City soon followed suit with their own statement.

“Currently Stephen is the most successful manager in the League of Ireland and his appointment would be just reward for his commitment to the local league and the success he has achieved in raising the profile of the league in European competition.”

Those messages of support appear to have been in vain though with McCarthy set to return to the hotseat for a second time.

His first spell saw him guide the side to 2002 World Cup qualification where they reached the second round before losing out to Spain on penalties.

The achievement was overshadowed by a high profile fall-out with star player Roy Keane, leading to the Manchester United captain being sent home days before the start of the tournament. Keane had acted as O’Neill’s assistant manager over the last five years before also departing on Wednesday.

Neil Lennon had been another name linked to the vacant position but the Hibernian boss distanced himself from the position yesterday afternoon.

Lennon, who worked under O'Neill at Leicester and Celtic, played 40 times for Northern Ireland between 1994 and 2002.

Ahead of the visit of Dundee in the Ladbrokes Premiership today, the 47-year-old said: "I am in a very good job here and I am just concentrating on that at the minute.

"It is just speculation. I am flattered if there is a link, I have not seen anything or heard anything regarding myself, all I have been doing is concentrating on us getting back into winning form because that is important.

"I am sorry to see Martin go because he had such a huge influence on my career, 10 years I played under him.

"He did some brilliant things with the Republic and I am sure he will come again because he is brilliant.

"He did say he was looking for his next challenge or adventure so he obviously still has still got the hunger and you can see it constantly on the touchline.

"His competitive record with Ireland wasn't that bad. It is part of the job, some things come to an end, nothing lasts forever and I am sure he will be back. I hope so."

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