Mick McCarthy: Ireland must put faith in Stephen Kenny – but I never wanted to leave

Mick has no hard feelings about the Ireland job.

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Mick McCarthy hopes the Football Association of Ireland sticks with Stephen Kenny and gives his successor a chance to bring through a new generation of talent into the senior squad.

McCarthy, currently manager of APOEL in Cyprus, enjoyed a second spell in charge of Ireland when he took over from Martin O’Neill in November 2018, but was only handed a fixed-term two-year contract.

Kenny was appointed Under-21s boss at the same time as McCarthy returned to the international set-up, with the intention of promoting the former Dundalk boss into the senior role after Euro 2020, but the tournament’s cancellation meant the reshuffle was brought forward to April.

Speaking to Ruby Walsh and Paddy Power on the latest episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, McCarthy has opened up about his exit and hopes Kenny is given time to settle in as he continues to hunt for a first victory since taking over. 

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“You sign a contract, and you could sign a one year, two year, three year or four year contract. You’re never guaranteed that you’re going to finish that contract of course”, McCarthy told Ruby and Paddy.

“I already knew that my replacement was lined up and it wasn’t what I wanted, but I was willing to accept it to do that job again and have a chance to get into the Euros. Especially, when part of the European Championships were going to be in Dublin. It was worth it to do it for those 19 months, just to get the opportunity to do it again.

I don’t think I’d ever met Stephen Kenny before I took the Ireland job, but I know him a lot better now.

“There wasn’t much of a handover though because I think we all have our own ideas about how we should manage, coach players and coach the team”.

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Making the step up to the senior manager’s post was never going to be an easy task for Stephen Kenny, especially given the perceived lack of talent in the country at present. But, McCarthy did see too much of his eventually successor during the course of his second stint in charge of Ireland.

“Stephen was cracking on with the Under-21s and doing well with them, to be fair. I’m not sure if they suffered because of the change over in management, because neither they nor the senior team ended up qualifying which was sad.

Stephen was doing great with them, but we didn’t see much of each other during my time in charge.

“We’d see each other at games and we had meetings every month with all the staff of the younger squads, the technical director and with all the coaches,” said Big Mick.

“We used to see each other and got on fine, but it was just one of those things. I locked up and left the keys on the table and went for somebody else to take over. That’s the way it happens with a football job”.

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McCarthy was also keen to stress that targets were important when it comes to judging Kenny’s opening games in charge of the national side. But, the former Ipswich and Wolves boss also knows results will always be the be-all and end-all for a football manager.

“I think Ireland have got to put faith in him. Ultimately, we all know that if you’re a sportsman or you’re running a sports team, results are what will ultimately define you”, said McCarthy.

“If it is a campaign where you’re saying, ‘Right, we’re doing this and we’re going to change it around and we’re going to bring those Under-21s in that were doing so well and we’re going to have to start again’, then quite clearly you absolutely need time to do that.

If it is absolutely results-based and you’ve got to win games, then I know Stephen will be worried doubt it.

“Because I’d be worried about it! It was the same when I went in – I think I didn’t win for eight games. Mind you, Stephen’s following me. I was following Jack Charlton. Let me tell you, that was a tough old job! He’d just been to two World Cups and a European Championship”.

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