After Off The Ball exclusively revealed that Mick McCarthy would not continue in his role as Republic of Ireland manager, Ger Gilroy shared his thoughts on the FAI's decision.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way, off the field and over the phone. The headlines which heralded 'The Return of The Mac' promised some kind of festival-style homecoming for one of the most iconic characters in Irish football.
Mick McCarthy, present for the biggest moments in Irish football in Italia '90 as captain and as manager for Saipan and the subsequent World Cup, was supposed to get the send off he never got after 2002.
There were games in Dublin, young players coming through and after the final campaign and subsequent Nations League under Martin O’Neill the football would only improve.
It was an intoxicating dream that bought the FAI some time, and McCarthy settled back into the groove of managing the national team like it was a favourite pair of slippers rediscovered at the back of the wardrobe after 15 years.
There was the unusual call to have Stephen Kenny learning the ropes in the background and a clear end date for McCarthy but in many ways that seemed like a win-win.
Mick McCarthy got a chance to reignite his relationship with the Ireland fans, Kenny was in situ to grow into the job.
There was clearly a level of unhappiness with the decision among McCarthy loyalists which suggested that perhaps his camp were privately less than delighted about the prospect.
Whatever about that it never bubbled into the public domain and McCarthy was the ultimate professional across the campaign when it came to the succession question.
In truth the FAI had no choice here. The decision is fairly simple – annoy the manager who’ll be in charge for two years or the one who might only be in charge for one game? They’ve chosen to ride with Stephen Kenny.
In good times it’s possible that other decisions get made, but with the revenue the FAI have lost already and the pay cuts they’re implementing across their staff it was always going to be hard to renegotiate a new contract for McCarthy.
No doubt he’d have made accommodations around the changed circumstances but it would, in essence, have meant paying two managers to manage one team. Not possible in the new world we live in.
Will Mick McCarthy’s second tenure be judged harshly? The football showed mild signs of improvement from the final campaign with O’Neill, but ultimately we didn’t qualify from a group where our main rivals under-performed.
The global pandemic intervened here to prevent McCarthy get his going away party and no doubt it’ll always be a regret for him. For Ireland moving forward with Kenny there’s the blank canvass of a new manager which always brings excitement for football fans.
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