Kilcoyne admits McCarthy was not his first choice as manager


THE president of the FAI, Louis Kilcoyne, last night appeared to break ranks with his fellow officials by declaring that Mick McCarthy was not his first choice as Republic of Ireland manager.

Kilcoyne admitted he was "disappointed" that the selection committee did not acquire his first choice and, when asked, declined to deny that his stated preference was Kenny Dalglish.

Kilcoyne was speaking on 98FM's Vincent Browne Tonight. Curiously, Browne began the interview by asking Kilcoyne whether McCarthy was his first choice, to which the FAI president responded "No."

Asked who was, Kilcoyne said "Somebody else." Asked who this person was, he said "We won't say that." His second choice? "Yes," said Kilcoyne, reiterating that McCarthy was, personally, his second choice.

Dalglish was widely believed to have been Kilcoyne's strong preference all along, something he refused to deny. "Could have been. We won't go into that so much as we'll go into Mick's appointment. We're very pleased that Mick has accepted the appointment, the challenge. The challenge is that he must get us into France in '98. We're particularly happy about that."

That Kilcoyne's approval of McCarthy's appointment was less than unequivocal was then confirmed when he was asked if he was disappointed not to have procured his first choice. "I was disappointed, a little."

This surprising admission must undermine McCarthy's standing less than 12 hours into his managerial reign, and it threatens to open up a rift within Merrion Square, all the more so coming as it does after a 45 day selection process to find a successor to Jack Charlton, during which time innumerable leaks emanated from a six man sub committee which never gave the impression of complete harmony.

Earlier in the day, Kilcoyne had heralded the "dawning of a new era" and the arrival of "the big man". Even at that point, however, the inauguration was a muted affair. Which is as well. No need to have unduly inflated expectations. But, if McCarthy handles the next World Cup qualifying campaign as skillfully as he handled his first press conference, then the Republic shouldn't have too many problems.

The new manager's two year contract is hardly a ringing endorsement. The estimated salary of £120,000 plus per annum will be greatly inflated, pending qualification, and suggestions that he would become a millionaire amused him.

The Barnsley born son of a father from Tallow, Co Waterford, who taught him hurling, McCarthy is a football man through and through. Having played for the Republic 57 times, earning the soubriquet Captain Fantastic, his Charltonesque bluntness and honesty will add to his popularity.

"Success? Winning, Winning is success. That's all it can be. It's lovely to win playing fast, free flowing football, but people aren't that bothered. As long as it's done within the rules of the game. People want you to win. People remember winners, and I can't tell you any losers' names because I've forgotten them all."

He is under no illusions and knows full well the parameters of the job. Qualify for the World Cup or bust. "I personally believe I'll be judged on what the national team do over two years and, if we do well, then they'll be asking me to stay on for the next 10 years, and if we don't then I'll be on the next ferry out of Dun Laoghaire, with everybody's blessing."