Mick McCarthy aware of staff fears as FAI crisis rolls on
After a month dominated by one subject, Mick McCarthy knew what was coming eventually.
Politeness meant that the Ireland manager was initially dealt with some gentle serves on his first return to these shores since the win over Georgia that became a sideshow to the bigger picture.
He was asked about Shane Long's rapid-fire goal on Tuesday. (That's good news to him.) An update on Patrick Bamford's international future was sought. (The Leeds player remains in no rush to commit.)
And his trip to the Dublin Derby also got a mention. (He was impressed by Bohs' Danny Mandroiu but the sendings-off ruined the game as a scouting exercise.)
But the only show in town right now is the crisis that has engulfed the FAI with John Delaney - the man who appointed him - now sidelined from the scene.
"You all want me to say something that's going to make a headline," said the 60-year-old, "And of course you have to ask me. But there's no point in me getting involved."
Yet McCarthy didn't quite bat all queries away, even if he was reluctant to get stuck into the analysis of the rights and wrongs.
He admitted to following events from afar, while stressing that his choice of TV channels prevented him from following the FAI's big day at the Oireachtas.
"I've been kept up to date with it but am I following it verbatim? No." he said.
"I have to say that you guys (press) are pretty good when you get a piece of wallpaper and it starts peeling off."
Was he insinuating that the coverage was unfair?
"Did I say that?" he replied, quickly. "I don't know because I don't know the full circumstances.
"Maybe when it's all finished I might look back over it all and decide whether it's fair or unfair. I haven't followed it... and I'm not going to do."
McCarthy said there had been no recent contact with Delaney, acknowledging that they had worked closely together during his first stint in charge - which is another story in itself.
He acknowledged they had been in relatively frequent telephone contact this time around, but the arrangements around the team have run smoothly so there has been no cause for complaint from the manager's side.
"Everything here is better than it was when I was here the last time," he cautioned. However, McCarthy is clearly aware of the sensitivities around the subject.
He declined to get drawn into discussion about the cash-flow situation, asserting that he can only go down that road if he's told that there's a problem at his end.
Nevertheless, he stressed that he did go into FAI HQ on Tuesday to speak to staff that are feeling the strain right now.
"I was in the offices yesterday and I feel for the people working there," he said. "I'm a little bit immune to it, working in England, working watching players.
"I was acutely aware going in yesterday, that if you're going into that environment and everyone is battered - the association they are working for - it must be pretty tough.
"So I went in, had a bit of fun, had a laugh, took the p**s a little bit.
"They should be proud of what they're doing. I just look at the youth teams, the teams who are beneath the senior teams who are doing well.
"There is a lot to be proud of and that's what I tried to say to them. That's what they should be thinking about because they can't affect what is happening either. All they can do is do their jobs."
He doesn't believe it will be an issue for his players when the summer double-header with Denmark and Gibraltar comes around.
They already coped with the tennis ball distraction against Georgia which, in the opinion of McCarthy, might even have geed his players up at the time - while also making a point about the broader situation.
"It would appear to me that the consequences are that things are changing," he mused. "But it won't affect the football.
"I'll turn up and we'll go to Portugal (in May) and unless someone tells me we can't go for financial reasons or we can't play here because they've shut it (the Aviva), then I am going to continue to do the job I've been employed to do."
Colin Bell, the manager of the senior women's side, was singing off the same hymn sheet at an event to launch the Sports Direct Summer Soccer Schools.
"I'm here for the football, not the politics," he said. "I believe that the governing bodies and everyone involved will get through this."
That is McCarthy's focus too. He met President Higgins at the recent Seán Cox tribute match and they shared a word.
"The sentiment was that it's the football that counts," McCarthy recalled. "If we can give everybody a lift with our performances and results, that's spot on."
From his perspective, the show must go on.
Even if there's no end in sight to the backstage shenanigans.