Roy Keane hints that Harry Arter will be the man to benefit from McCarthy absence
Published 09/11/2016 | 02:30
The bad days linger in Roy Keane's memory.
In the midst of the latest instalment of 'Ireland v Everton - The Injury Wars' , Martin O'Neill's assistant strays slightly off topic to wonder aloud when the Merseyside club actually won a trophy.
He is reminded that it's the 1995 FA Cup Final, a game where he was a part of the losing Manchester United side.
"I was out there, yeah, and they were the luckiest team on the planet that day," he says, almost breaking into a laugh. "They bloody were. We missed about 10 chances."
Ireland's summer international break in 1995 was frustrating too. Fittingly, in the context of this week's discussions, it culminated with a costly defeat at home to Austria that followed a catastrophic draw with Liechtenstein.
Keane was absent for both those matches with a delayed hernia operation ruling him out. That was a campaign where his regular unavailability exasperated Jack Charlton.
When he lined out for Manchester United three days after missing a qualifier with Latvia, Charlton spoke about his frustration. "I could pick up the phone and ask Alex (Ferguson) what's going on but I'd probably lose my temper and end up shouting down the line at him."
Keane is on the other side of the fence now. He knows it too and understands James McCarthy's position, the difficulty of a club manager telling a player not to report for Irish service because of an injury doubt. "I have experienced that myself," he said.
The Cork man spoke at length about the problems between the Irish camp and Everton which pre-date Ronald Koeman's arrival at Goodison Park. O'Neill and Keane didn't have much love for Roberto Martinez either.
Koeman was unhappy with the Irish camp pitching in McCarthy last month and Seamus Coleman in September when they were coming off injury breaks. Keane's point is that Everton should be wondering why their first team squad always seem to have fitness concerns, with Darron Gibson's name thrown into the mix.
"They get lots of injuries with players who aren't playing international football," said Keane, "Maybe Everton should toughen up. Maybe they need to look at their own training schedule.
"They are lucky to have the Irish players that they have there and Everton, traditionally, have always had brilliant Irish lads doing well for the football club so they shouldn't be so quick to stop Irish players coming to play for Ireland.
"If you are a half decent club, then you expect your players to be going away playing international football because you would like to think that is the status of your club," he continued.
"When I was manager of Sunderland and lads were going away for internationals, I was delighted. Possibly glad to see the back of them for a few days as well.
"And also that they were representing their countries and representing the club. That's what you want. If it's international week and you are at your club with 20 players staying behind, you're going 'my God, we are struggling'.
"In the Premier League, you would expect your players to be going away. I can understand the clubs (concerns). You can't have your cake and eat it but when managers come out with comments about what we are supposed to be doing with players, it was so far off the mark you would not believe it.
"There is always that element when players turn up that there is that calculated risk. There is a risk in getting into your car.
"But our medical staff could not be fairer to players. We knew the Dundalk lads would be keen to join in today but we said it was two days after their game so they had to sit out. That's common sense.
"So this idea that we are taking risks or over-loading on players is so far off the mark. I think we have been too far the other way with players. We've turned a blind eye sometimes.
"Lots of players have missed qualifying matches and have been fit for their clubs a couple of days later. We've had to take our medicine in that side of it."
He didn't mention anybody by name, but that has happened with Harry Arter during his stop-start Irish career.
Ironically enough, it's Arter that is poised to benefit from McCarthy's withdrawal. Baseless rumours about his commitment surfaced when he missed the Georgia and Moldova double-header due to an injury setback that cleared up in time for a return to action for Bournemouth.
He's an attractive replacement, a player that has impressed at the Premier League this season - an endangered species in the Irish dressing room.
"We like Harry," said Keane. "He's been unlucky with us. If he has to start with the one or two injuries, I'm sure he wouldn't let us down.
"He's got qualities. I'm sure Harry would be the first to say he has areas he needs to improve in as well. I'm always quite happy to tell the players the areas they need to improve on.
"If you've got half a brain and you're playing week in week out in the Premier League, you will get better. You have to be a real clown not to advance as a player if you're surrounded by very good players and Bournemouth have some very good players.
"So unless he goes off the rails, he'll be a good player for Ireland for the next few years. And what he's looking to do now is to establish himself."
Finally, this is a fixture that's come around at the right time.