McCarthy in relaxed mood as World Cup odyssey hots up

 

With a slight shift in the Republic of Ireland's schedule we might have been treated to a chance encounter between Louis van Gaal and Mick McCarthy over the weekend at Amsterdam's Schipol airport.Emmet Malone reports from Saipan

As it happened the pair came within hours of a meeting, one heading for Spain to pick up where he left off at Barcelona in one of football's richest coaching posts; the other passing through on the way to what may well be his last hurrah with the Irish team before he, too, opts to take the much greater rewards offered by the club game.

The Republic's coach was just one of the Irishmen who last September did so much to hasten his opposite number's exit from the international scene, but as he considered the news that van Gaal had been reinstalled at the Nou Camp, he smiled, shook his head and observed: "If the tables were turned there's no way I'd have gotten Barcelona, is there?"

McCarthy, of course, is not complaining. The 43-year-old, who looked relaxed and well rested after the Irish party's 22-hour journey to the tiny Pacific island of Saipan, is unlikely to be short of offers whenever he decides to make his own exit from the international scene.

However, the extent to which he is sought after by those at the top end of the market will depend of course on how the players he has guided to these finals perform from Saturday week onwards.

With the nine-hour time difference and long spells in the air still taking their toll on the squad yesterday morning, the first training session on foreign soil amounted to little more than preparation for the preparations.

Even then two sat it out - Jason McAteer still suffering from the ankle injury picked up in the Nigeria game and Matt Holland resting due to what McCarthy described as a "little tickle in his throat". Both should join in when the squad go for another jogging session this afternoon.

The priority early on is to get the players used to the heat and humidity they can expect to encounter over the coming weeks in Japan.

Though Tokyo was both cool and very wet, much like an average summer's day back home in fact, as the squad passed through on Saturday conditions here were much closer to what is expected and the process of assessing how well the different players adapt was started immediately with everybody who took part in yesterday's 45-minute run being weighed before and afterwards.

"We didn't do a lot today," he confirmed afterwards. "Just worked up a sweat to get everyone into the swing of things.

"It's probably hotter and more humid than in Japan which is part of the reason we came here but we won't do a massive amount of work at all, just try to get the lads used to being out in the sunshine.

"Even sitting down out in this heat you use up 150 calories an hour I'm told," McCarthy went on to observe before gleefully suggesting that some of the journalists present could do with trying that and a bit more besides over the days ahead.

"The lads are in good shape, though," he added. "I think you saw that against the Nigerians when even after 93 minutes they were still chasing the ball, they didn't look tired at all."

Thursday's defeat was still on his mind as he chatted about the team's build up but the former Millwall boss maintains there was little to be taken from the game other than a gentle reminder that the leading African sides are well capable of posing a threat to both Ireland and England's prospects of progressing beyond the group stages of these finals.

"We got an idea of how tough the Cameroon will be and I think they (the Nigerians) will pose problems for the English," he remarked.

"But I reckon that if England get as many attempts on goal as we did they'll win the game."

Ireland's profligacy at Lansdowne Road, where they dominated their visitors for long stretches yet still lost the game, was a disappointment he conceded.

"If you get 21 attempts on goal," he said, "you'd certainly like to think that you would do better but I don't think you can take too much from it. I mean if I'd like to think we'd get 21 attempts in any of the World Cup games but I don't think that that will be the case.

It's going to be a bit more cagey than that." Asked about how his players would cope with such a long stint holed up in one hotel or another during the weeks ahead he insisted that they would be fine.

"They all have DVDs, videos and the rest of it but we're lucky, too, because they all enjoy each other's company."

He confirmed, however, that partners and families would be allowed to visit the players at different times during the tournament.

"I'm glad for them to see their wives or girlfriends and it'll be nice for some of the lads to see their children, so we've booked rooms for some of them on the nights after games and for the nights after that, I think," he said.

"Does that mean that you've decided against imposing an Italian-style sex ban," asked one reporter whose question was greeted with the sort of bemused look from McCarthy that suggested, not for the first time, that he felt the press conference had perhaps gone on too long.

Subsequently, though, it was established that the players would not be prohibited from engaging in Italian-style sex.