Sunday 13 October 2019

'Why does everyone say I should be pinching them?' - Mick McCarthy on Stephen Kenny's young guns

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, left, with assistant coaches Robbie Keane, left, and Terry Connor
Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, left, with assistant coaches Robbie Keane, left, and Terry Connor
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Ireland manager Mick McCarthy suggested he should take some of the credit for a thrilling win by Stephen Kenny's under-21 side in Sweden on Tuesday, after he opted not to take some of the nation's brightest prospects to play in the senior international against Bulgaria.

Tottenham's Troy Parrott stole the show as the under-21s recorded a vital 3-1 win that enhanced their push to qualify for the Euro 2021 Championships, with McCarthy suggesting his decision to give the youngster their chance to shine was crucial to their success.

"I should take some of the credit for that," McCarthy said of the under-21s success. "I could have taken Troy, I could have taken the lad (Aaron) Connolly, I could have taken (Jayson) Molumby, but that would just weaken them.

"Stephen has the best gig of them all, by the way. I've had to come in here, settle this down and we've got a few good results.

"Stephen is in the background, he knows he is getting this (senior job) in however many days it is and in the meantime, he is building his own team.

"I sent him a text to tell him he has got a good team and he has. Why does everyone say I should be pinching them? Wouldn't it be nice for that under-21 team to qualify?

"Some of you lads just want me to dismantle that by taking them for our games. Switzerland away Georgia away and Denmark here are massive games. Are they ready for them? We'll see."

McCarthy also hinted he may try to lure Stephen Ward out of international retirement for next month's crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia.

Ward called time on his Ireland career last March after injuries affected his final season at Burnley, but he has got himself fit since moving to Stoke and McCarthy hinted the 34-year-old could have a role in Tbilisi.

Midfielder Conor Hourihane played in a defensive role in the 3-1 win against Bulgaria on Tuesday night, but McCarthy was quick to confirm he would not use the Aston Villa man as a replacement for the suspended Enda Stevens.

"I was never ever taking him (Hourihane) to Georgia to play him at left-back, it was never in my mind to play him at left-back," McCarthy told RTÉ.

When asked whether James McClean is a contender to fill-in for Stevens, McCarthy threw a surprise name into the mix when he revealed his selection thoughts.

"He is probably one of my best options if I haven't got a recognised left back," he added of McClean. "We all know what I've got. Greg Cunningham, Stephen Ward....

"Wardy might tell me to get lost and tell me he's retired (from international football), but if I want him I think he might just put his boots on one more time."

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