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Stuttgart, the 2002 World Cup, and the second coming - Mick's Ireland career

The 61-year-old will walk away from the Ireland set-up with many fond memories.

YESTERDAY BROUGHT CONFIRMATION that Mick McCarthy’s second spell as Ireland manager had come to an end, with the 61-year-old handing over the reins to Stephen Kenny.

While it is an unsatisfactory end to his second stint in charge in a competitive sense, McCarthy can reflect on many happy memories with Ireland both as a player and manager as he almost certainly says goodbye to the set-up for the final time.

The FAI’s interim CEO, Gary Owens, said that “Mick has been a longstanding hero of mine” and praised McCarthy for being “outstanding in his service both to Ireland and the FAI over many, many years.”

McCarthy certainly has his share of critics, but he will walk away from the Ireland set-up with many proud memories.

mick-mccarthy McCarthy in Ireland colours. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Eligible to play for Ireland through his father, Charlie, McCarthy made his international debut in a 0-0 draw with Poland in 1984 and swiftly became an important player.

The defender had obvious leadership qualities and was soon captaining his country.

In 1987, McCarthy led Ireland to a 1-0 win over Brazil at Lansdowne Road, with Liam Brady scoring the only goal of the game.

mick-mccarthy-and-edu McCarthy and Edu of Brazil in 1987. Source: INPHO

While Frank Stapleton was still the full-time skipper, McCarthy was part of the Ireland team that beat England 1-0 at the 1988 Euros in West Germany, with Ray Houghton famously scoring the winner in Stuttgart.

Jack Charlton’s men subsequently drew with the Soviet Union and lost to the Netherlands.

mick-mccarthy-and-gary-lineker McCarthy tracks Gary Lineker at Euro 88. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But with McCarthy then installed as ‘Captain Fantastic,’ Ireland made an impact at the 1990 World Cup – Italia 90 – drawing with England, Egypt, and the Netherlands in their group and then beating Romania on penalties in the round of 16.

Ireland ended up losing to hosts Italy in the quarter-finals, as Toto Schillaci’s goal knocked them out. 

salvatore-schillaci-and-mick-mccarthy-1990 Toto Schillaci and McCarthy in 1990. Source: INPHO

In total, McCarthy won 57 caps for Ireland, scoring two goals.

He became player-manager with Millwall in 1992 but was soon back in the Ireland set-up when he succeeded Charlton as the national team manager in 1996.

His tenure started with a 2-0 defeat away to Russia in a friendly. 

mick-mccarthy-republic-of-ireland-soccer-manager-at-his-first-match-1996 McCarthy before his first game in charge of Ireland in 1996. Source: © INPHO/Billy Stickland

McCarthy’s Ireland suffered heartbreak in their qualification campaign for the 1998 World Cup, losing 3-2 on aggregate to Belgium in the play-offs.

And then there was another narrow miss for Euro 2000, as McCarthy’s men lost out to Turkey on away goals in another two-legged play-off.

shay-givenmick-mccarthy-belgium-v-ireland-15111997 Shay Given and McCarthy after their play-off loss to Belgium in November 1997. Source: © INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ireland finally took the leap into the 2002 World Cup, however, crucially beating the Netherlands 1-0 during their European qualifying group and then earning a 2-1 play-off win over Iran booking their place in South Korea and Japan.

mick-mccarthy-at-the-final-whistle McCarthy during Ireland's 1-0 win over the Netherlands in 2001. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Goals from Ian Harte and Robbie Keane ensured a 2-0 victory in the first leg in Dublin before Ireland lost to a late Yahya Golmohammadi goal in front of a huge crowd in Tehran.


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mick-mccarthy-digital McCarthy celebrates in Tehran. Source: INPHO

The infamous Saipan saga overshadowed the start of the World Cup, with star man Roy Keane sent home on the eve of Ireland’s campaign getting underway.  

McCarthy’s men did still draw with Cameroon and Germany before a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia ensured a place in the second round, where Spain beat Ireland on penalties.

soccer-fifa-world-cup-2002-second-round-spain-v-republic-of-ireland McCarthy consoles Matt Holland after Ireland's shootout defeat to Spain. Source: EMPICS Sport

With the fallout from the Keane debacle continuing, McCarthy came under increasing criticism following the World Cup.

Ireland made a poor start to their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign with defeats against Switzerland and Russia, leading to McCarthy’s resignation in November 2002.

mick-mccarthy-792002-digital McCarthy after Ireland's 4-2 defeat to Russia in 2002. Source: INPHO

McCarthy subsequently took up the Sunderland job, helping them to promotion into the Premiership in 2005 but he was sacked the following year.

He joined Wolves in 2006 and got the club promoted three years later, as well as keeping them up the following season. McCarthy was sacked in 2012, going on to take over at Ipswich.

Having left that position in 2018, McCarthy was then free to return to the Ireland job in November 2018, replacing Martin O’Neill.

mick-mccarthy-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle McCarthy celebrates a win over Georgia. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

McCarthy started his second stint with wins over Gibraltar and Georgia, while earning a creditable 1-1 draw way to Denmark.

He recorded a record of Played 10, Won 5, Drew 4, Lost 1 in his 16-month spell in charge.

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