Can Mick McCarthy’s paddle turn Ireland’s sinking ship around?

Captain Fantastic returns – hope this second marriage lasts longer than Burton and Taylor

It’s 2002 and you ask your crystal ball to forecast Mick and Roy’s future.

"Mick will leave the Irish job and take over at Sunderland, " it says, "and Roy will come back and play for Ireland and then will become Sunderland manager himself before taking over at Ipswich, where Mick will also later become gaffer, with Roy becoming assistant Irish manager before Mick returns to the Irish job in a Second Coming kind of way."

“Go home,” you’d have said. “You’re trolleyed.”

But if we've learnt one thing over the years it's that unexpected twists and turns in football are actually entirely predictable – like Mick and the Irish job becoming the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton of the international game.


“After Richard, the men in my life were just there to hold the coat, to open the door,” said Liz. “All the men after Richard were really just company.”

Mick might well have felt the same about Sunderland, Wolves and Ipswich, the three clubs that held his coat and kept him company after his divorce from Ireland in 2002. That's not to say that there weren't passionate and fruitful spells in each relationship, but, ultimately, they all ended in acrimony, his reflections on the Sunderland job in particular suggesting that no mediation service on Earth could have healed the hurt.

“It was like trying to stop an oil tanker with a canoe paddle,” he said.


And it wouldn’t be true to say that his split from the Ipswich fans was amicable either. A year ago, after they had serenaded him with “Mick McCarthy, your football is shit”, he told them: “Unless somebody decides otherwise, you’ve got me, boring old big nose f***ing fart with shite football.”

The decree absolute was issued the following April.

He'd filled his time since then punditing for Virgin Media, Graeme Souness meeting his mouthy match, but he had made it perfectly clear that he'd only taken that job to get him out of the house, the fella even turning down an invitation to appear on Strictly Come Dancing so that he'd be available when the next desirable post was up for grabs. Watch and learn, Harry Redknapp – he won't even know that the Irish job was available until he gets out of the jungle.

Some might argue that the appointment of a new manager so soon after the departure of Martin and Roy is indecently hasty, not least Harry, who was busy bemoaning the fact that his next jungle dinner would be "flippin' kangaroo wings" when he could have been working on his CV before forwarding it to John Delaney.

Stephen Kenny's appointment would have been a stirring of the imagination by the FAI, but we should probably know better by now

And there will be those feeling a little bitter having laid a bet a decade and a half ago on Philippe Troussier one day ascending to the Irish throne, the fella's name linked with the job more often than Alexis Sánchez is linked with a Manchester United exit. The last we heard of Philippe was back in April when he was one of the just 77 men to apply for the Cameroon job. Delaney's options were, possibly, not as wide, maybe even narrowed to just the two, Mick v Stephen Kenny.


The latter's appointment would have been a stirring of the imagination by the FAI, but we should probably know better by now than to hope for such enterprise, although Mick might well take f***ing umbrage at suggestions his hiring is akin to Jeremy Corbyn being succeeded by Tony Blair.

But we have our Captain Fantastic back, it's déjà vu all over again. Not to everyone, mind – Michael Obafemi was two and a half when Mick vacated the position in 2002, so his mind was solely focused on sucking the bejaysus out of his Liga back then.

“Our love for each other is so furious that we burn each other out.”

That could very easily have been Mick talking about the Irish job last time round, but it was actually Richard talking about Liz. Ominously, their second marriage lasted just nine months. “She was, in short, too bloody much,” he said, when he walked away.

We can but hope Mick won’t feel the same about his second marriage to the Irish job, deciding next summer that it’s too bloody much, that there’s some truth to that “never go back” trope, and that steering an oil tanker with a canoe paddle is just not doable.

But good luck to the fella.

And welcome home.