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'I spoke to Mick the next day... He looked shook'

Kevin Doyle feels the current Ireland manager has done an excellent job despite an early scare against Gibraltar.

Mick McCarthy (file pic).
Mick McCarthy (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Kevin Doyle has praised his former boss Mick McCarthy for helping to restore the feel-good factor in Irish football.

An impressive performance amid a 1-0 win in their second Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia last month served as a morale boost to a side that had looked short on confidence towards the end of the Martin O’Neill era.

It was a much-improved display from McCarthy’s first game in charge, when the Boys in Green laboured to a 1-0 victory over Gibraltar in their opening group match.

Doyle, who coaches Ireland U17s and worked under McCarthy as a player during part of a six-year stint at Wolves, says the Barnsley native was deeply relieved after avoiding a disastrous start to his reign.

“That first game, I was being interviewed about it beforehand, you just think: ‘Gibraltar. Grand.’

“[Mick McCarthy's] first game, only four days together, that pitch and environment you know, I wasn’t there but I was told about the conditions, the wind. It’s all a leveller, I know it sounds like excuses, but it is. [Gibraltar] were well organised, they had a good Nations League. Just to get out of that with a win was big, I think.

“I spoke to him the next day, I was at training with the U17s, we were beside them. Mick was like [exhales deeply]. He looked shook. He was just saying: ‘If we hadn’t have won that game, it would have been one of the worst results in Irish history.’ That’s the way he was looking at it, that’s the pressure he felt.

“But then to come [to the Aviva] and put in a good performance, I know there was only a goal in it, but the manner of the performance, the stats, different things — we had 50:50 possession.

“I spoke to people who wouldn’t watch a whole lot of soccer, but watch Ireland internationals. I’d get it in the ear off all of them usually, but they were like: ‘Jesus, Ireland were really good last night.’ 

“Just to hear that, which I hadn’t heard in a number of years, like, it’s positive.” 

McCarthy is in his 27th year in management — a period that has encompassed two stints as Ireland boss. A popular figure in a game where enemies can be easily made, Doyle partially attributes the 60-year-old’s success to his direct manner — a quality that is not always commonplace in what can sometimes be a fickle industry.

“Mick is very good. He’s good at getting people onside, and he doesn’t bullshit. Even about the Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty debate [after the Gibraltar match], he was like ‘yeah, it didn’t work’. There’s no trying to gloss over stuff. Players like playing for him and, listen, he’s had as good a start as he could have.”

That said, some critics will inevitably have no problem overlooking McCarthy’s positive traits if results start to deteriorate, with a difficult-looking fixture against second seeds Denmark in Copenhagen next on the agenda on 7 June, before the Boys in Green host Gibraltar three days later. 

“It won’t be easy in Denmark,” Doyle adds. “I don’t like that game in June, I never did.
Players are on holiday for a few weeks, then you’re back in, you’re switched off from your club season. You’re back in and trying to get everyone right, it’s very difficult. It’s a silly fixture — but it has to be done.”

Troy Parrott Kevin Doyle is hopeful Troy Parrott can help ease Ireland's striker worries. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Meanwhile, as one of the people responsible for overseeing Ireland’s underage set-up, Doyle is hopeful that young attackers, such as Tottenham’s Troy Parrott and Norwich’s Adam Idah, are on the verge of breaking through to the senior side and helping to resolve the team’s well-documented problems up front.

“I’m with the U17s and Troy Parrott, I don’t know if we’re going to have him or not. We’re in the Euros in the summer and the 19s are in the Euros in the summer and he’s going to be involved with Spurs, he’s very close to training with the first team, so they obviously want him and the [Ireland] U21s want him.

“I haven’t seen him, but everyone who is with the U17s have all said he’s really good and we’re really hoping that we have him for that tournament. There’s a lot of talk about him and he has trained with the Spurs first team a number of times, so that’s a very good sign for someone who is still only 17.

Adam Idah, I’ve seen his goals for the U21s and again the U17s. Colin O’Brien had him previously and he raves about him as well. It’s good, because there was a little gap there for the last year or two where you’re like: ‘Well, where’s the next batch of strikers?’

“When I first got in the Irish squad, it was Robbie Keane and me and not long after, it was Daryl Murphy, Shane Long and Jon Walters and it was that five. Simon Cox and Andy Keogh came and went, but it was us for 10 years. We came in at 21-22 and stayed until we were 35-36, with no one coming through. But it looks as if there’s a bit of a supply starting to come through now and we need it.”

Irish football international Kevin Doyle was on hand to launch the new and improved Aviva Stadium Tour. The Aviva Stadium Tour provides fans with a unique behind the scenes experience of Ireland’s primary international sport’s stadium giving them not just an understanding of Ireland’s international sporting heritage but also a first-hand experience of what match day is like for our international football and rugby players.

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Paul Fennessy

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