Monday 19 August 2019

McCarthy praying Irish players see club action

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

John Brennan

These are a nervous couple of weeks for the Ireland football manager. Nothing to do with the politics of the FAI annual general meeting yesterday, but more fretting over how many of his possible team to face Switzerland in the vital Euro 2020 qualifier in September will play first-team football in the early weeks of the new season.

The English Championship starts on Friday, the Premier League on Friday week - and then it all stops on September 1 for the international break that features the tie against the Swiss five days later.

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But McCarthy is watching and wondering how many of his players will play in the early games of the campaign and be match-fit for an international game in which a win would see Ireland put one foot in the European finals.

"I've got a real issue with how many of the players in my squad start for their clubs," said McCarthy last week. "Because, if they don't start the first game, they've only got three weeks to get back into the team."

So have you talked to players about getting out of clubs where they are not playing? "That's not just for me, that's for them. I can't force them to move. Like, James McCarthy, from December onwards last year, I was saying to him to go to the Championship, to get playing,

"I'm not bothered if it's Premier League, we've all seen how good the Championship is with the players we've got playing in that. I think if you've got no chance of playing in the club team, you should be banging on the manager's door, or your agent is ringing the manager and saying 'get him the move.'

"You don't develop in the 23s, we've all seen people go on loan, Josh Cullen last year impressed us all when he was out at Charlton. I'm worried for him. He's on pre-season tour with West Ham. And the last thing I want for them is to go, 'Ooh, he's done really well, we'll keep him as a back-up.'"

McCarthy then went through his team. "OK, the back five will all start for me, and of course the Doc (Matt Doherty) will start at Wolves. If anybody doesn't play, he can play all those positions, I'm sure he can play in the nets if anything happened to Darren Randolph!

"Jeff Hendrick, will he start? He's been playing wide on the right for Burnley, I hope he does because he's been brilliant for me. Conor Hourihane has just signed a new contract with Aston Villa, I'd imagine he'll start.

"Glenn Whelan hasn't got a club. Will he start the season? He was brilliant in the games he played, he was outstanding for us. I know he'll be keeping himself fit but he's had no matches.

"David 'Didsy' McGoldrick? I hope he will after the way he played for Sheffield United last year, Robbie Brady, hasn't played regularly with Burnley but that's probably due to injuries, will he start?

"Callum Robinson? He's got a move to the Premier League with Sheffield United which is great. But I can't emphasise enough that you come back and if you don't play, you are not battle hardened, you've been off since May.

"We see it now. Liverpool haven't got good results in pre-season, But I'm not bothered, never bothered about pre-season, but you need to play in those competitive games, you need to play."

It's why McCarthy, earlier in the week, almost seemed to leave the question of whether Spurs starlet Troy Parrott should play against the Swiss up to club boss Mauricio Pochettino. His rationale was that if the Spurs manager decided the 17-year-old was good enough to be a Premier League player, and blood him there next month, then that was great for the lad himself and for Ireland too.

But if Pochettino opted to send Parrott back to the reserves then the player would simply not have the required experience to play against Switzerland in a crucial international.

McCarthy has never been a fan of pre-season, either as a player or club manager. "In truth, I'd love it if we could all just turn up on the Monday before the first league game and take it from there. Of course that's not going to be possible, so you have this time of year when so many players are worried about their situation at their club."

And are you worried that you might be forced to change your plans if half of them lose their club place?

"If some of them who I perceive as my best players aren't playing and can't start, yeah it will be disappointing," McCarthy says candidly.

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