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Mick McCarthy's €1million goodbye as Stephen Kenny takes over as Ireland manager


Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy's time as Ireland manager is over after the FAI decided to honour the terms of the succession plan that sees Stephen Kenny take charge on August 1, an arrangement that entitles the outgoing boss to a parting bonus in the region of €1m.

McCarthy's exit fee is a legacy of the unorthodox deal that was brokered by ex-CEO John Delaney in the winter of 2018.

The returning manager had initially spoken about a four-year stay with the FAI but the change in plan which saw then Dundalk boss Kenny given a written guarantee that he would assume control after a spell with the U21 side led to McCarthy's €1.2m a year contract including a lucrative departure package.

With the FAI hierarchy adhering to the contracts they inherited in reaching their verdict - a transition which has been brought forward with no games on the agenda between now and August 1 due to the Covid 19 crisis - they are prepared to pay the 61-year-old whatever he is owed in the deal agreed by the previous regime.

And FAI sources have indicated that this would also leave McCarthy in line for a qualification bonus - again a figure in the region of €1m - in the event that Kenny brings the team through the rescheduled Euro 2020 playoffs, whenever they take place.

It's understood that Abbotstown officials are now working off the impression that it's possible the playoff series will not take place until November or possibly even next March, thus leaving open the prospect of Kenny building relations with the senior players in UEFA Nations League matches before the Euros situation is resolved.

A sub committee of the FAI board came to the decision which was communicated to the relevant parties in the last 48 hours and confirmed by a Saturday afternoon statement.

It's believed that McCarthy swiftly accepted his time was up, and was reluctant to dig in his heels because of the tensions it could possibly provoke.

His contract was due to expire on July 31 and the FAI top brass reached the conclusion that the appropriate course of action was to proceed with the arrangement as planned as the contracts of the two managers were clearly date bound.

President Gerry McAnaney, interim CEO Gary Owens and independent chair Roy Barrett were tasked with looking at the managerial picture at a meeting last month where it had become clear that the coronavirus was going to have a dramatic impact on the plan left behind by Delaney.

They were going to wait until after June's rescheduled Euro 2020 playoffs but moved quickly after the game with Slovakia was again postponed on Wednesday - with no prospect of them taking place prior to Kenny's scheduled arrival date.

The FAI ultimately concluded that, in this new era for the Association, it was important to go by the book rather than - "go back to the old ways of ducking and diving" as one source put it.

"What you want is to be straight and up front with people," added the source. "It was a hard call but the right call. From a reputational point of view, it wouldn't look well."

There were fears expressed about damaging the working relationship with Kenny if he was asked to wait in the wings pending the outcome of a playoff encounter which may not take place for some time.

He is only contracted for one campaign as senior manager, the attempt to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and was intent on getting a full crack at it rather than giving up a portion on account of the Euro 2020 confusion.

Kenny will bring Keith Andrews with him, while it's understood that Celtic coach Damien Duff has been asked to join the backroom team.

Terry Connor has left with McCarthy, but FAI statements have yet to clarify the situation with Robbie Keane who was awarded a four-year contract by Delaney.

However, Ireland's record goalscorer is not expected to be a member of Kenny's staff. His terms with the FAI were altered when he accepted the offer to job share and become assistant manager of Middlesbrough.

There was no mention of Keane in the FAI statement which announced the end of McCarthy's second stint.

It said that "The handover has been agreed with both men in light of the delay to the European Championship play-offs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Mick McCarthy’s contract was due to expire on July 31st after the UEFA EURO 2020 finals, with Stephen initially scheduled to step up from his Under-21 team role on August 1st. This move allows Stephen Kenny time to plan for the European Championship play-off semi-final against Slovakia later in the year."

Interim FAI CEO Gary Owens said: "This has been a difficult situation for the Association - and for Mick and Stephen in particular - in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the football calendar.

"On behalf of President Gerry McAnaney, the Board of the FAI and myself, I want to thank both men for their professionalism and their understanding in their dealings with the Association in these unprecedented circumstances. These are exceptional times in Irish life and Mick has taken that into account in agreeing to vacate the post early.

"On behalf of the FAI, I wish to express our gratitude to Mick for his service and commitment to our national team throughout his career and particularly in his second spell as Ireland manager. We wish Mick and his staff well and we thank them all for their hard work in this European Championship campaign to date.

"Stephen will now begin his planning for the play-off against Slovakia and everyone at the FAI wishes him well in our bid to qualify for Euro 2020. Football will be back and we have so much to look forward to now in the autumn with the Nations League and the UEFA EURO 2020 play-off, followed by the World Cup qualifiers in early 2021."

McCarthy told FAI TV that 'extraordinary circumstances for everybody' had resulted in the turn of events.

"It's hugely disappointing but I fully understand it. I see Age Hareide (at Denmark) is the same. He started the same competition and he's leaving now because his successor was already picked to take over and mine was the same.

"This gives everybody clarity. To the real credit of Gary (Owens) and Roy (Barrett), they have taken over and made this decision quickly. It's an important decision and it's only right and fair that Stephen gets his chance. It's bittersweet but I fully support it.

"I think we've had a really good campaign. We were almost there (Euros) in November when we played Denmark. Sadly we didn't. The playoffs have been pushed back and I fully understand it. Stephen has been contracted to take over in August and good luck to him, he'll get the chance now to qualify."

McCarthy thanked his staff and players for all the commitment they have showed, and said he is leaving his replacement with a strong hand.

"I've loved being back, I've thoroughly enjoyed it," he said, "It's been an absolute pleasure and an honour and I think I'm leaving Stephen with a healthy balance to be quite honest."

He confirmed an intention to return to football. "I'm back on the market and can look for a job with impunity," he said.

Online Editors