Can ‘Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic’ turn Ire­land around?

Hope­fully this se­cond mar­riage lasts longer than Bur­ton and Tay­lor

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Mary Han­ni­gan

It’s 2002 and you ask your crys­tal ball to fore­cast Mick and Roy’s fu­ture.

“Mick will leave the Ir­ish job and take over at Sun­der­land,” it says, “and Roy will come back and play for Ire­land and then will be­come Sun­der­land man­ager him­self be­fore tak­ing over at Ip­swich, where Mick will also later be­come gaf­fer, with Roy be­com­ing as­sis­tant Ir­ish man­ager be­fore Mick re­turns to the Ir­ish job in a Se­cond Com­ing kind of way.”

“Go home,” you’d have said. “You’re trolleyed.”

But if we’ve learnt one thing over the years it’s that un­ex­pected twists and turns in foot­ball are ac­tu­ally en­tirely pre­dictable – like Mick and the Ir­ish job be­com­ing the El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor and Richard Bur­ton of the in­ter­na­tional game.

“Af­ter Richard, the men in my life were just there to hold the coat, to open the door,” said Liz. “All the men af­ter Richard were re­ally just com­pany.”


Mick might well have felt the same about Sun­der­land, Wolves and Ip­swich, the three clubs that held his coat and kept him com­pany af­ter his di­vorce from Ire­land in 2002. That’s not to say that there weren’t pas­sion­ate spells in each re­la­tion­ship, but they all ended in ac­ri­mony, his re­flec­tions on the Sun­der­land job in par­tic­u­lar sug­gest­ing that no me­di­a­tion ser­vice on Earth could have healed the hurt.

“It was like try­ing to stop an oil tanker with a ca­noe pad­dle,” he said.

And it wouldn’t be true to say that his split from the Ip­swich fans was am­i­ca­ble ei­ther. A year ago, af­ter they had ser­e­naded him with “Mick Mc­Carthy, your foot­ball is shit”, he told them: “Un­less some­body de­cides oth­er­wise, you’ve got me, bor­ing old big nose f***ing fart with shite foot­ball.”

The de­cree ab­so­lute was is­sued the fol­low­ing April.

He’d filled his time since then pun­dit­ing for Vir­gin Me­dia, Graeme Souness meet­ing his mouthy match, but he had made it per­fectly clear that he’d only taken that job to get him out of the house. Watch and learn, Harry Red­knapp – he won’t even know that the Ir­ish job was avail­able un­til he gets out of the jun­gle.

Some might ar­gue that the ap­point­ment of a new man­ager so soon af­ter the depar­ture of Martin and Roy is in­de­cently hasty, not least Harry, who was busy be­moan­ing the fact that his next jun­gle din­ner would be “flippin’ kan­ga­roo wings” when he could have been work­ing on his CV be­fore for­ward­ing it to John De­laney.

Feel­ing bit­ter

And there will be those feel­ing a lit­tle bit­ter hav­ing laid a bet a decade and a half ago on Philippe Troussier one day as­cend­ing to the Ir­ish throne, the fella’s name linked with the job more of­ten than Alexis Sánchez is linked with a Man­ches­ter United exit. The last we heard of Philippe was back in April when he was one of the just 77 men to ap­ply for the Cameroon job. De­laney’s op­tions were, pos­si­bly, not as wide, maybe even nar­rowed to just the two, Mick v Stephen Kenny.

The lat­ter’s ap­point­ment would have been a stir­ring of the imag­i­na­tion by the FAI, but we should prob­a­bly know bet­ter by now than to hope for such en­ter­prise, al­though Mick might well take um­brage at sug­ges­tions his hir­ing is akin to Jeremy Cor­byn be­ing suc­ceeded by Tony Blair.

But we have our Cap­tain Fan­tas­tic back, it’s deja vu all over again. Not to ev­ery­one, mind – Michael Obafemi was 2½ when Mick va­cated the po­si­tion in 2002, so his mind was solely fo­cused on suck­ing the be­jay­sus out of his Liga.

“Our love for each other is so fu­ri­ous that we burn each other out.”

That could very eas­ily have been Mick talk­ing about the Ir­ish job last time round, but it was ac­tu­ally Richard talk­ing about Liz. Omi­nously, their se­cond mar­riage lasted just nine months. “She was, in short, too bloody much,” he said, when he walked away.

We can but hope Mick won’t feel the same about his se­cond mar­riage to the Ir­ish job, de­cid­ing next sum­mer that it’s too bloody much, that there’s some truth to that “never go back” trope, and that steer­ing an oil tanker with a ca­noe pad­dle is just not doable. But good luck to the fella. And wel­come home.

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