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FAI's two bosses on a crash course

McCarthy and Kenny set to be locked in a handover dilemma


Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny

Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny

Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny

If Ireland's next game is the Euro 2020 play-off with Slovakia, then the right call is for Mick McCarthy to be on the sideline.

But only on the understanding that he won't be in charge if his team makes it to the finals.

Qualifying for tournaments is where the FAI make their money, not doing well when they get there.

And in this time of financial crisis, emotion has to be removed from the equation when it comes to making tricky decisions.

It's vitally important that the FAI qualify for next summer's tournament, given that they are co-hosts and would earn more than the qualification fee of €9m.

However, if McCarthy's team defy the odds and come through a pair of rescheduled away games, the pros of keeping him on for the finals do not outweigh the cons.

Difficult as it would be to swallow, it doesn't justify the delaying of the succession plan and jeopardising Stephen Kenny's chance to have a proper crack at the World Cup in Qatar as an introduction to the international game.

The new FAI hierarchy are in an unenviable position and, while the tragic reality of a global pandemic should put any grievances in perspective, they are going to have to upset somebody here.

It's possible they may have to knock both noses out of joint, to some degree.

Kenny is a glass-half-full person, who was confident in his ability to manage the senior team when the FAI thought he needed time in the U21 set-up.

By all accounts, he would have no fears about going into the job now, even if UEFA fix the play-offs for September and that becomes his initial task.

That belief is admirable, and it's why there is natural excitement about what the former Dundalk manager can bring to the role, but it would be a risk to effectively waive the prospect of a honeymoon period and drop him straight into a high-stakes encounter.

Contractually, he's entitled to dig his heels in and it would be foolish to think he is a pushover. Kenny is very much his own man.

Yet there is a view within the FAI that players might take a dim view of McCarthy having to step aside because Kenny wasn't willing to budge for the sake of a month.

And that is why the timing is crucial here. Should UEFA decide to fix the play-offs for September, thus meaning that the Irish manager will have a maximum of three full days with the group before the game, then the percentage call is to broker an arrangement that allows McCarthy to finish the qualifying mission he was hired to do.

But that idea is only really workable for September - or if the games are the starting point for the resumption of international action.

If UEFA decide that one or two windows for UEFA Nations League matches will be completed before the play-off fixtures, then the FAI have to put their trust in Kenny.

While McCarthy has taken a 50 per cent pay deferral for April, and it's safe to assume it won't just be for April, he remains the FAI's highest paid employee.

The revelation that he is due a parting bonus on account of John Delaney's populist 'two for one' approach to the job has undoubtedly eroded sympathy for his position, especially when the Covid-19 crisis has left so many people within the game here worried about wages that are modest in comparison.

So the extent to which he has earned the right to see the Euros campaign through can be debated.

The FAI should be using the beginning of the Nations League as the reference point for the handover.

As it stands, six games are due to be played in the autumn before regular qualifying for the 2022 World Cup kicks off in March.

Something is going to have to give to make room for the play-offs.

Nevertheless, it's clear that these matches are going to be important for Kenny in terms of the integration of the new crop of players who are very much knocking on the door.

Given that he's only contracted for one campaign - the 2022 tilt - then it would be daft for the Dubliner to agree that McCarthy effectively stays in charge for a good portion of it.

Indeed, the Nations League could arguably be as viable a route to the play-offs as traditional qualifying.

That's why McCarthy would have to enter the play-offs in the knowledge that he will be leaving whether Ireland win or lose; changing managers midway through the World Cup campaign would be nonsensical.

Denmark manager Age Hareide has set a precedent by vacating his post despite steering his side into the Euros. He didn't push for a sentimental 12-month stay of execution.

That's unlucky for him, and the timing is unfortunate for McCarthy. There's logic in giving him the chance to finish the job he was brought in to do and that is to qualify the team. But the fine print of any short-term extension would have to be clear from the outset.

It would be his chance to leave on a spectacular high and depart into the sunset. After that, it's Kenny time.