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New Ireland boss Mick McCarthy insists he has no issue with Stephen Kenny arrangement

The outgoing Dundalk manager will take over the Irish senior job after Euro 2020.

Mick McCarthy speaks today at a press conference in Dublin.
Mick McCarthy speaks today at a press conference in Dublin.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

- Paul Fennessy reports from the Aviva Stadium

IT IS RARE for football managers to know exactly when their time will come to an end, particularly when only starting a new position, but Mick McCarthy is one high-profile exception to this rule.

It was confirmed today that the former defender had agreed to become Ireland boss for the second time, but he will be succeeded by new U21 boss and out-going Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny after Euro 2020.

McCarthy, who is reportedly earning €1.2 million a year, seemed content enough with the deal that will see him in place for just one qualification campaign.

“We’ll see, won’t we,” McCarthy said at a press conference in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium today, when asked about the prospect of returning to an old job, which historically has not always worked out well in football.

“I was never going to turn down the chance to take the job. It’s been mooted on a number of occasions, every time a new manager is about to be selected, I always tend to have a few more Irish journalists in the press conference [at club level].

“My answer to that was always: ‘If I’m out of work or if the job comes up, of course.’ We’ll see whether it’s a good decision in two years’ time, but I’m looking forward to it.”

In addition, the former Ipswich and Sunderland boss said there was no chance of his deal being extended beyond the Euro 2020 campaign, regardless of how well he performed.

It’s two years to qualify for the European Championships. If you do really well and get to the final and win it, and you want me to stay, there might be a push for me to stay, there might be a job in the Premier League as well and they’ll want me there. If we don’t do well and we don’t qualify, you won’t want me anyway. So it kind of fits for me. It works.”

While the former Ireland international acknowledged he would likely not be especially happy to give up the job if the side excel under his watch, it is a situation he cannot change ultimately.

“That’s two years down the line. Do you know how long the average tenure of a Championship manager is? 11 months. I’ve been given 24.

“I’m so surprised, no disrespect to Dundalk, but what if he comes in and rips it up with the U21s and some club from England comes and says we fancy you Stephen, come manage us? It’s two years’ time. We don’t know what will happen but you’re right, it might be that feeling if we qualify and do well in the Euros, but I’ve accepted it and that’s the way it’s going to be. If we do there might be something else for me. I might go and get a big job in China and retire on 10 million a year.”

Stephen Kenny Outgoing Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny will succeed Mick McCarthy as Ireland boss after Euro 2020. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

McCarthy, who represented Ireland 57 times as a player, admitted he did not know Kenny especially well, adding “he’s buying dinner apparently” when they meet later tonight.

“In terms of advice to me with players I’ll be speaking to him about, we’ve some good young players, and Stephen will be hopefully shoving players through from the 21s.

“There are going to be a lot of questions asked, but there are eight or 10 games between March and November, I’ve got from now until then to find out a lot of things about a lot of people. I hope I can leave a good team and a good squad behind that he can try to take over for the World Cup.”

The Barnsley native, whose father was born in Waterford, also played down concerns about the Irish players’ ability and the team’s recent poor run of results.

You don’t get the job if Ireland qualify, or if they hadn’t been relegated out of the Nations League, so if they’d won, I don’t get the job, you always seem to get it on a bit of a low and the first job is to turn that around but I can’t do that until March. I can go and see players and speak to players but ultimately, I’ll be judged by results and that starts in March in how we play and what we do.

“Wherever I’ve gone, it’s never [been the case] where they’ve been flying and doing well. Wolves were relegated, Sunderland were about to be relegated, it generally needs picking up for whatever reason. Not long ago we were qualifying for European Championships. Some players have retired. It’s a job of mine, along with Stephen, TC [Terry Connor] and Robbie [Keane], to find players with no friendlies beforehand.” 

McCarthy’s predecessor Martin O’Neill was at times criticised for his team’s style of play, and while the new Ireland boss suggested his side would be good to watch, he emphasised that winning matches is the most important aspect of his job.

Did you enjoy watching us at the World Cup in 2002? I guess that’s the style of play. There are real misconceptions about styles in football. I’ve always found winning football is generally the best.

“It’s always going to be about winning games. If we did that and we qualified then maybe we can get players in and do different stuff, but my view has always been to play an attacking game. I played 4-4-2 the last time. That won’t be happening. I doubt that because of how football has changed. It’s all about dominating the ball in midfield.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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