Monday 11 December 2017

Mick McCarthy explaining what it means to be Irish perfectly captures why he was such a legend in green

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

An Irish football icon once famously said 'It's not the Republic of Mick McCarthy' but few men have given more to the Boys in Green over the years than the former captain and manager.

From the time he made his debut in 1984 to when he managed his last game with the national team in 2002, nobody could question the passion and commitment of the Barnsley-born centre back.

McCarthy was a part of an influx of English-born players with Irish parents who were recruited to form the nation's greatest ever team. Some players agreed to represent Ireland because they were unlikely to represent England but others, like McCarthy, saw themselves as Irish and would only consider the green jersey.

The Ipswich boss spoke about the concept of 'Irishness' in his Paddy Power blog yesterday and he brilliantly explains that although some players might not have the same accents as those born there, that is not what makes a true Irishman.

"My mother-in-law is 93 years old and originally from the Curragh in Kildare, and she sums it up perfectly: There are men from Ireland and then there are Irish men," McCarthy says.

"That’s the way it is.

"When people questioned me about my Irishness I used to say to them, ‘If you left Ireland to live abroad and had children, and your son was good enough to represent Ireland in any sport, would you think he is Irish and able to play for them?’ Every single person would give me the same answer. Of course they’d let their son play for Ireland, and that’s exactly what I did and exactly what a lot of players are still doing. There’s no issue there."

McCarthy's emphatic declaration is particularly relevant as Ireland enter Euro 2016 with a considerable number of squad members born outside the country. However, as the ex-Ireland boss illustrates, that in no way means that those players will be less committed to the jersey than anyone else.

And if they play with half the passion as Mick McCarthy did, Martin O'Neill's men should be more than okay when they open their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden on June 13.

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