Mick McCarthy: How I kept the team calm when Ireland bus broke down before Gibraltar match

Mick felt there was no point losing the plot.

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Mick McCarthy may have a reputation for an energetic touchline demeanour, but the former Republic of Ireland manager had to keep his emotions in check after a transport disaster on the way to a crucial Euro qualifier last year.

The 61-year-old and his side were forced to stand by the side of the road after their bus broke on the way to the Aviva Stadium for their clash with Gibraltar in June 2019, adding plenty of pressure to a crucial game. McCarthy recalls how he had to keep his temper under control so as not to affect the players during what turned out to be an ultimately doomed campaign in which Ireland lost a play-off against Slovakia on penalties.

Speaking to Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, the ex-Ireland boss says he was keen not to use the incident as an excuse for a poor performance and was ultimately happy his players ran out 2-0 winners against Gibraltar.

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“It’s just one of the things you’ve got to deal with”, McCarthy said of the bus mishap.

“People try to make such a thing of it. We didn’t play particularly well against Gibraltar – but we won the game – and I think people were expecting I was going to blame the fact that the bus had broken down”.

“It didn’t affect us. We were just sat on the bus. I actually just stood on the side of the road and most of us were laughing about it, because it’s nothing I can control.

It was funny because every time we drove past that place after, the bus driver got a round of applause.

“It just broke down – it happens, there’s nothing you can do about it. I was having pictures stood at the side of the bus with the two police officers who were escorting us in. Everybody’s tooting horns. There’s people going to the game and they’re all going past tooting horns and waving at us and there’s the team stuck!”

As annoying as the incident was, McCarthy is known for taking things in his stride and he felt that the bus breaking down was not something to lose the cold over.

“Nobody offered us a lift, but I don’t think they had a car big enough!”

“What’s the point of losing the plot with the bus driver? All that does is show my anxiety.

“If I am all het-up and I fire off at the bus driver or somebody else and I give everybody a load of abuse because the bus, all the players do is look at me and think ‘Wow, he’s under the cosh today, isn’t he?’

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“I pass those anxieties on. So I got out the bus, I had a laugh with the two guards, had a picture taken and played it down,” McCarthy explained.

“You could be going out of a country on an aeroplane and it breaks down. It could have been worse, we could have had a crash in it. Thankfully, the older I’ve got, I’m more accepting that things do happen like that.”

I’d have been laughed at at the press conference if I’d have blamed that for the fact that we only beat Gibraltar 2-0.

“We only beat them 1-0 in the first game, and that was worse still because we’re playing next to the airport.

“The 8:30 flight to Gatwick departed while we were playing and it was howling a gale. I still wasn’t going to make excuses for it. We just didn’t play particularly well, but we won”.

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