Tractor Boys club together in bid to find an extra gear
Published 02/06/2015 | 02:30
Martin O'Neill's quest to return Ireland to another major competition could yet hinge on the fortunes of two men who have benefited so wonderfully under the tutelage of one of O'Neill's predecessors.
Mick McCarthy's international career highlight as a manager, the 2002 World Cup, recedes further into view with every passing year - and on a June 1 day plucked from the depths of winter in Malahide, sweaty Suwon et al seems further away than ever before.
But McCarthy's precious gift, that of mining the very best from wayward, elusive talents, continues to impress.
He is football's version of Rumpelstiltskin weaving gilt-edged gifts from so much chaff.
It remains an intense source of regret for his most potent admirers that much of his best work is undertaken within the second tier of English football; coincidentally, or not, that is where a significant portion of Ireland's internationals are currently housed.
McCarthy's Ipswich remain destined to be mired in the demolition derby that is the richest promotion race in world football for another season following their play-off defeat to Anglian rivals Norwich last month.
Two of his constituents, Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick, although the latter was scratched for much of the season with a troublesome thigh injury, have pitched up on international duty with hope in their hearts that they can transfer gilded club form into a green jersey,
Murphy fired 27 goals for McCarthy's men and it is the suspicion of many watchers that Ipswich may not be able to contain his talents for another season despite his commitment to stay.
McGoldrick, too, has many suitors; Leicester were willing to punt upwards of £5m but were rebuffed at the start of this disruptive season.
The men may end this season with the disappointment of play-off defeat and some more uncertainty swirling around their respective heads, but the optimism of lining out for Ireland and the pregnant hope of its football fans will drive them this fortnight.
Scotland is the main focus but the friendly against England this weekend is of immediate interest.
For McGoldrick, 27, who only discovered his Irish roots when the adoptee met his birth mother - prompted, ironically, by Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, who had queried his nationality with McCarthy - playing England will be of itself a unique occasion.
"I played with Adam Lallana, Theo Walcott and Ryan Bertrand at Southampton," says the peripatetic striker, who has visited nine clubs, many on loan, in as many years before settling at Ipswich with rewarding results two seasons ago.
"I'm good mates with Adam so it will be a good experience to get some minutes or to be just involved.
"I spoke to him a week ago but he's been away with his family. But I'm sure I will catch up with him before the game.
"It would be great feeling to be involved against England, it's going to be a massive game for all concerned. It's a sell-out and being involved in these type of games are the ones that you can talk about to your grandkids later on in your life.
"I would love to be a part of it is some kind of way.
"Obviously I don't know about sharpness but my fitness is good and I've a lot of training. I just want to get back playing again."
If McGoldrick's ramblings offer a quaint romantic counterpoint to much of the sordid stuff that so sullies around the beautiful game, Murphy's tale is just as life-affirming.
Now settled with a family in England, and seemingly unperturbed by weekend speculation linking him with Cardiff, Murphy's Law is one that is predicated upon ceaseless commitment and an unwillingness to cave in to outside perceptions.
Now 32, easily veteran status these days, it has taken a decade for the Waterford-born man to achieve the sense of notoriety as a goalscorer that he always promised to fulfil, yet struggled to deliver.
A case of three times a charm, clearly; McCarthy eventually signing him permanently after three loan spells after the player had struggled to convince with Sunderland and Celtic, where he had often been left literally on the fringes, played wide instead of through the middle.
"Of course it is flattering to be linked with clubs at my age," he smiles, "because it means I must be doing something right. I want to stay.
"Next year we need to make signings because we need more players. Hopefully they give the gaffer money to do that because if we got to the play-offs this year and we add a bit more quality to our team, then who knows?"
Patience has been a virtue and even though Simon Cox and Kevin Doyle have been cut, he is not demanding inclusion.
"I've only come back into the squad really after being out for so long so I'm delighted to be here. Getting the call-up probably gave me a bit more confidence and is probably why I scored that many goals this season as well.
"The manager has his own ideas on what he wants to do. I tried all season to just keep maintaining what I was doing and the gaffer would have seen that.
"But he has got his own mind to make up on who is going to play so we'll just see what happens."
Murphy would love to score a first goal in what would be a 15th cap; McGoldrick, who has played but once, just wants to play. "I am a humble lad and I just want to be a part of training," he demurs.