There now appears overwhelming support for Mick McCarthy for the vacancy as Republic of Ireland manager, which may render the intense work of the Football Association of Ireland [FAI] recruiting duo of Ray Houghton and Ruud Dokter a waste. In England the owner of McCarthy’s current employers, Ipswich Town is Marcus Evans, also owner of THG Sports – currently the sole and exclusive provider for official match day corporate hospitality at the Aviva Stadium. As the Championship club may lose its second Irish manager in as many years, after Roy Keane held the post for almost two years, before his departure in January 2011.
Somewhat ironic though that the other half of the Saipan Saga, Mick McCarthy, took up the Portman Road job eleven months ago. But in the time honoured way the FAI do their business there are always twists and turns, and even more so with theur managerial appointments.
For Irish soccer fans there is more than a little history with McCarthy, Saipan apart, given that in February 2003 he was aslo the subject of an emergency meeting called to discuss allegations that an unnamed association official advised his agent to look for a £100,000 bonus during the 2002 World Cup finals. A meeting of the 23-strong FAI board on that occasion requested more information from the unnamed official - as well as Mick McCarthy’s agent at the time Liam Gaskin - who was at the same time looking for an apology from the FAI given he felt badly portrayed in the whole matter.
Although the issue was deferred that day to February 6th 2002, it was reported by the Irish Daily Mirror at the time that “several board members” were not happy with the situation.
In fact St Patrick's Athletic chairman, then Andy O'Callaghan, went on record to say “It would appear that the timing of this meeting is not coincidental.
"I don't know why it has come up now, I wish I knew - but a lot of questions have been raised.
"There are a number of people who have to present more details. I think people want the facts because they are fed up with this side of things."
Months later, on September 4th 2003 The Irish Independent reported that FAI President Milo Corcoran and Honorary secretary Kevin Fahy had spent two months investigating the allegations that during the 2002 World Cup finals, the then Honorary Treasurer John Delaney had urged Mick McCarthy to seek a special performance bonus prior to signing his new contract. However Delaney countered at a special Board of Management meeting that McCarthy had also received a €50,000 bonus for getting Ireland to the last 16 of the World Cup. With lawyers hovering outside, and the FAI facing another series of internal rumblings, sought that meeting was adjourned.
After which barrister John G O'Donnell was appointed as an independent mediator and in the end “He hammered out an agreement to the satisfaction of all parties”.
Ten years later Mick McCarthy appears a shoe in for the job, currently held by interim manager and Under-21 coach Noel King. With few other names now really touted as realistic contenders.
Last month Sky Sports reported that FAI chief executive John Delaney had pinpointed Ipswich boss McCarthy, along with Roy Keane, Martin O’Neill, Brian McDermott and Chris Hughton as candidates. Indeed, Delaney “singled out McCarthy for praise” and said: ‘Mick has done a very good job for Ireland and in England as well. We have to look at who can get the best out of the players available to us.’
‘We do have time. We will take stock of the last couple of days and then discuss the process. I think there will be plenty of interest, because first of all, 24 teams go to the European Championships and it’s genuinely accepted we have a good crop of young players.’
Then former Republic International and RTE Sport panellist, Liam Brady became the latest to suggest McCarthy should be handed a second chance to manage the Republic of Ireland. He told RTE Radio: "For me, it would be Mick. He's demonstrated since then he's a very, very capable manager. “I don't know if it's possible to get him but he would be number one on my list."
"I don't know what his contractual situation is at Ipswich but what I do know is that he's demonstrated before that he's capable of doing the job.
"He has broad shoulders; he had to put up with an awful lot of messing when people turned against him.
"Most of the media turned against him, public opinion turned against him because of how popular Roy Keane was. But the man got on with it.
"He's demonstrated since then he's a very, very capable manager. I don't know if it's possible to get him but he would be number one on my list."
"We all expected that Martin O'Neill would be the next manager but it hasn't happened.
Ireland captain also Robbie Keane believes the same: "Why not with Mick, it happens a lot," said Keane. "Holland have done that a few times. Mick is a great guy, a fantastic guy, everything we have referenced. But if it was Mick, Martin O'Neill or Roy Keane, I don't think you can go wrong."
"As long as it's the right man it doesn't matter, but at this stage I think everybody would like an Irish manager," he said.
"We need someone who is an honest manager, who doesn't mess around, someone who understands how important it is to be involved at international level, someone who is proud of what we are trying to achieve in Ireland. Someone who is honest."
A description which would also put the other Keane - Roy Maurice - in the frame. However Roy expressed keeness for Martin O’Neill as the successor to Giovanni Trapattoni.
“A lot of managers have been linked with it, a lot of good managers. I would find it hard to disagree with it...I don’t know about the favourites. I know a little bit about Martin O’Neill and I think Martin would be a very, very good choice,” said Keane.
“I also think the FAI have done the right thing in stepping back, taking their time and seeing what is out there. But I think Martin would be a very good guy for the job, I have to say. But that is just my opinion obviously,” he added.
Keane also told The Irish Times last month that he had not be approached by the FAI about the vacancy despite the media speculation.
“I have not thought about it too much to be honest with you. I have more important things to be worried about,”
“No, not really. I shouldn’t be flattered by that, should I?”
RTE Pundit and former Irish international Eamon Dunphy when speaking at the recent launch of the South Dublin Football League's new grassroots development programme felt McCarthy could be the man to restore the faith of Irish soccer.
"It looks as if it was Martin O'Neill's job if he wants it. If he's not up to it, then we've got to go elsewhere.
"I'd like to see the field of runners. Mick McCarthy has been mentioned and in the 11 years now since Saipan he's shown enormous maturity in the situation. He's proven himself to be a very good coach, he kept Wolves in the Premier League and he conducted himself with great dignity.
"If you leave the Saipan thing apart, I wouldn't be against Mick McCarthy coming back. He likes to play the game the right way and he knows the scene.
"I don't know who the other runners are but we should have learned a lesson from the Trapattoni experience.
"I was hugely up for Trapattoni at the start because of his CV, but we need someone who understands Irish soccer, who knows our players, who will work at the job, who won't discriminate against people because of their style of playing. All of those boxes Mick McCarthy ticks."
Eleven years ago it was very different story as Dunphy claimed that McCarthy only had himself to blame after resigning as manager of the Irish national team.
"The buck always stops with the manager in football, unfortunately," Dunphy said. "It was harrowing for all people involved. It has been a very, very unhappy experience and it should never have got to this stage. Mick McCarthy was the person in charge of that situation and he should have managed it better."
But things can change very rapidly with Eamon who also said last week on the appointment of interim manager ahead of the Germany 2014 World Cup Qualifying game:
“I think Noel King’s been great this week. He’s brought back Andy Reid which is right, he’s brought back Kevin Doyle, which is right. He’s making all the right noises. Let’s see what team he picks.”
Seven days later the story is rather more adverse.
As it was in 2002 when Dunphy said of McCarthy: “He’s one of the biggest whingers in world football… he’s a bloody eejit.”
Quick call the Dokter!
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