'It was only fair that Stephen Kenny gets his chance:' Out-going Republic boss Mick McCarthy
HONOURING a contract and efficiency savings appears to have been the twin-tracked approach by the FAI after Saturday’s surprise announcement of Mick McCarthy’s departure as Republic of Ireland manager.
When the Euro 2020 play-offs were postponed from their June date until later in the year – possibly November or even next March due to the Covid-19 pandemic - it meant a decision had to be made on McCarthy’s future as his contract with the FAI expires on July 31 2020.
One of the final acts under the John Delaney-led FAI regime was the plan to hand over the senior reins to U21 boss Stephen Kenny regardless of how well McCarthy was performing in the job.
The out-going McCarthy will receive his agreed “exit fee” of £1m while Kenny’s backroom team budget - featuring Keith Andrews and Damien Duff - will be significantly lower than his predecessor's.
McCarthy was on an annual salary of £1m, while Kenny’s is believed to be roughly on half that amount. McCarthy’s assistants Terry Connor and Robbie Keane shared roughly £400,000 per year between them in wages during their time involved.
Keane signed a four-year contract with the FAI in 2018 but he will not be part of Kenny's new managerial team. Current goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly has been retained.
The FAI has acted decisively so that there is more clarity going forward for the senior team. In an interview with FAI TV, McCarthy was philosophical about the manner of his departure from the role he described as an “absolute privilege”.
“I said when I took the job in 2018 that I’d be leaving on July 31  - and that’s still the case, albeit it’s been brought forward because of what’s been happening worldwide,” McCarthy said.
“I fully understand it as well. I see Age Hareide, the Denmark coach, is the same; he started the same competition and he’s leaving now because his successor was already picked to take over. It’s disappointing we can’t finish it off but I think we’ve had a really good campaign.
“We were almost there in November [at home to Denmark, 1-1] but sadly we didn’t and now the play-offs have been pushed back and that’s why I fully understand it. Stephen is contracted to take over in August and good luck to him; he’ll get the chance now to qualify.”
The Republic finished behind Group D winners Switzerland and Denmark but had one last shot at qualifying for Euro 2020 with a semi-final play-off against Slovakia, originally scheduled for March 26.
With Covid-19 sweeping through the globe, Uefa pushed the play-offs back to June. But that summer date always seemed very optimistic and the play-off games have now been put back further. The Euro finals themselves have been re-fixed for June 2021.
McCarthy added: “This gives everybody clarity. The phone’s been going: ‘What’s going to happen?’ To be fair, the decision was made quickly and I support the decision. It’s only right and fair that Stephen gets his chance. It’s bitter-sweet but I fully support it... I’ve no intention of leaving [football]. And I’m back on the market.”
McCarthy took over from Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane in November 2018 and despite having little time to prepare the team for the Euro 2020 qualification campaign, the side lost just one competitive game in 10.
“I’ve loved being back. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been an absolute pleasure and an honour to do the job again and I’m leaving Stephen with a healthy balance to be quite honest.”