Saturday 21 September 2019

Gerard O’Regan: 'Two managers facing into a long goodbye won't help our sporting chances'

'So, now all depends on the second coming of McCarthy. He is a journeyman manager in the best sense of that term - his achievements are considerable in getting the most out of middle-of-the-road footballers.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
'So, now all depends on the second coming of McCarthy. He is a journeyman manager in the best sense of that term - his achievements are considerable in getting the most out of middle-of-the-road footballers.' Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Gerard O’Regan

What are we going to do at all, at all, if the Republic of Ireland soccer team, managed by Mick McCarthy, wins the European Championships in two years' time?

That sure would be some scenario. Mick having to walk the plank, having brought the Boys in Green to glory. After all, that's the key to his new contract. Whatever will be his achievements, he is gonesville. Regardless of how his team perform in the Euros - should they qualify - it will not matter a whit.

OK, pigs will indeed fly before we win a major international soccer tournament.

But fantasising about dreams unfulfilled does focus attention on how Mick McCarthy is already manacled in his role as manager.

He has the full confidence of his FAI masters. But only for a while. He is charged with getting us to those Euro finals.

But even if he brings about a mini-revolution in the parlous state of Irish football, he will still be shown the door, given the agreed pre-ordained date for his dismissal.

On paper, his planned replacement, Stephen Kenny, has made his mark on the domestic league. And giving Kenny charge of the international under-21 team in the interim provides for a good apprenticeship.

But we cannot forget that schemes that look good on paper can swiftly unravel once the rigours of real life set in.

The recruitment of the once-dubbed 'dream team' of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane had so many dizzy with expectation.

Yet for some reason or other, the O'Neill-Keane dynamic inexplicably ran out of pizzazz. And that's the very quality we thought would be the hallmark of their reign. Their best-laid plans floundered, ending in a humiliating departure.

So, now all depends on the second coming of McCarthy. He is a journeyman manager in the best sense of that term - his achievements are considerable in getting the most out of middle-of-the-road footballers.

The aura surrounding the international team is dire - so he must now prove himself as something of a messiah.

Things surely cannot get any worse. Should he fail to get us to the Euros, the fall-out for the finances of the FAI will be catastrophic.

There is an irony that soccer bosses here should cleave to the tried and tested McCarthy persona in their hour of desperate need. Overall, he did the business in previous lives, both as a player and manager. We can wipe out memories of certain not-so-good times when he was at the helm.

However, the old F Scott Fitzgerald maxim - you can't repeat the past - retains a lingering resonance. In a sense, in the twilight of his managerial career, he is being challenged to travel back in time. The mission statement is simple. Bring back glory days of yore when the Boys in Green warmed our hearts.

But all the while there remains that niggling feeling. If he is the man for the job, why has such a strict time limit been placed on his tenure? Surely he should have been given the chance to do or die depending on his achievements.

For any manager in top-flight sport, the world should be their oyster. Anything should be possible. The sky should be the limit.

The thin line dividing success and failure is so often bound up with subtlety and nuance. In certain roles, a sense of destiny determines almost everything. McCarthy should have been recruited as more than a stop-gap manager.

On another front, Joe Schmidt - certainly one of the most influential and charismatic figures in the history of Irish sport - will depart following the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

Would it not have been better if he had delayed the announcement of his leave-taking until after Ireland had played their last game?

Remaining inscrutable on this issue would protect his authority and considerable presence. Donning the mantle of 'the manager who is heading for an exit door' can never be the ideal. McCarthy is carrying the same burden.

Both men have big mountains to climb before they say goodbye. It's a pity we don't have the exhilaration of not knowing when their stories will end. But then again, who can say for certain what the future holds. For anybody.

Irish Independent

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