No fan fare for Mc­Carthy 2.0

Man­ager knows he has to do a bit of panel beat­ing to knock dinged-up squad into shape

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Malachy Clerkin

It was, above all else, an ap­pro­pri­ate oc­ca­sion for the times. Mick Mc­Carthy’s re­turn to the top job in Ir­ish soc­cer was no­tably short of pomp and thor­oughly with­out cer­e­mony. It had none of the tri­umphant mood mu­sic of Brian Kerr’s ap­point­ment way back when, nor any of the giddy fas­ci­na­tion of Gio­vanni Tra­p­at­toni’s first day. Mc­Carthy has never been any­one’s idea of a star at­trac­tion, least of all his own.

This was never go­ing to be a red car­pet walk. The Repub­lic of Ire­land team is dinged up and in bad shape and the new man is here to do a bit of panel beat­ing and get it back on the road. It’s a far tougher job now than when he walked into it 22 years ago – Mc­Carthy’s first team line-up back then read Given, Staunton, Ker­naghan, Mc­Grath, Phe­lan, McA­teer, Keane, Townsend, Kennedy, Quinn, Aldridge – but he walks into it older, wiser and a bet­ter man­ager. He’s go­ing to need to be.

‘Do­ing well’

“Wher­ever I’ve gone,” he said, “it’s sel­dom – no, never – have I gone to take over a team that was fly­ing and do­ing well. I took over Wolves when they were rel­e­gated, Sun­der­land when they were about to be rel­e­gated. It gen­er­ally needs pick­ing up wher­ever I’ve gone for what­ever rea­son. We should re­mind our­selves that it’s not long ago that we qual­i­fied for the Euro­pean cham­pi­onships.”

The im­per­a­tive to qual­ify for the next edi­tion of that com­pe­ti­tion means his job now is stripped of all nu­ance. He is here for one cam­paign and one only. When­ever it ends, be it in the last qual­i­fier for the Eu­ros or in the fi­nal of the com­pe­ti­tion it­self, he will hand the team over to Stephen Kenny. All ques­tions about mak­ing the foot­ball eas­ier on the eye or even just some­what less risk-averse are to be seen in that con­text.

“There’s a lot of mis­con­cep­tions about styles of foot­ball,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot, read a lot, seen a lot. I’ve al­ways found that win­ning foot­ball gen­er­ally does it. Es­pe­cially with eight or 10 games to play to qual­ify, re­ally it’s go­ing to be about win­ning games. And then if we did that or we got a play-off, then maybe we could get the play­ers in, work with them, do dif­fer­ent stuff.”

Great­est

He rat­tled through some of the great­est hits. It took all of eight min­utes for some­one to men­tion Saipan, to which he mock-re­sponded, “Why, what hap­pened there?”

On De­clan Rice, he con­firmed that he had spo­ken to the player’s fa­ther Seán over the week­end and would be go­ing to meet them in due course. On how Rob­bie Keane came to be in­volved on the ticket, he said Keane rang him up him­self and asked for the gig. “At first I thought, ‘You cheeky bol­locks!’”

Along­side him, John De­laney seemed quite de­lighted with how it had turned out. Only a week ago, a few surely baf­fled Dan­ish stew­ards con­fis­cated a ban­ner lam­poon­ing him from the crowd walk­ing into the sta­dium in Aarhus. Now, all was sorted. Just how safe a pair of hands Mc­Carthy turns out to be re­mains to be seen but, for now, any resid­ual heat has been taken out of the sit­u­a­tion for the FAI.

Suc­ces­sion plan­ning

Throw in a spot of on-the-hoof suc­ces­sion plan­ning in the shape of Kenny’s new un­der­age gig and the prom­ise of the top job in 2020 and, out of nowhere, the as­so­ci­a­tion look to have stum­bled on a blue­print for the fu­ture. We can only thank our lucky stars that no­body thought to score a goal in Martin O’Neill’s last four games – it would have ru­ined the whole thing.

Suitably em­bold­ened, De­laney took the op­por­tu­nity to throw the odd el­bow around the place. He leapt in par­tic­u­lar on last week’s com­ments by Cather­ine Mur­phy TD, who called the FAI the most se­cre­tive of all the sport­ing bod­ies.

“I’ll give you one ex­am­ple in terms of my own salary, which is trans­par­ent,” De­laney said. “There are other sports bod­ies who for their own rea­son, and they are quite cor­rect not to re­veal their own CEO’s salary. I am prob­a­bly one of the very few whose salary does get dis­closed. I think when you do get to the ar­gu­ments after peo­ple mak­ing com­ments and ob­vi­ously maybe try­ing to get a bit of pub­lic­ity for them­selves, when you ex­am­ine the facts, they don’t stand up.”

Good man, John. No time like the un­veil­ing of a new Ire­land soc­cer man­ager to make the shiny lads in the GAA and IRFU shift un­easily in their seats. Even if Mc­Carthy’s panel-beat­ing job isn’t up to scratch, Kenny’s as­cen­sion – when it hap­pens – is a pre-baked new dawn, an au­to­matic shield for De­laney to stand be­hind if and when the go­ing gets tough.

The games go on, the man­agers come and go, the pol­i­tics never change.

Ir­ish soc­cer in a nut­shell.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: REUTERS

Re­turn­ing Repub­lic of Ire­land man­ager Mick Mc­Carthy with FAI chief ex­ec­u­tive John De­laney at yes­ter­day’s press con­fer­ence at the Aviva Sta­dium.

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