McCarthy and Robbie Keane to meet Rice next month

New manager says there will be a wider effort to add to the players between now and the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in March

Mick McCarthy will take Robbie Keane with him to meet Declan Rice next month as the new Republic of Ireland manager seeks to end the teenager's ongoing international exile, and there will be a wider effort, he says, to add to the players brought into the fold by Martin O'Neill between now and the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in March.

With McCarthy having just one campaign in charge, time he admits is tight. However, he says he has already started to work his way through the names of the current group and those players outside it with a view to seeing where some improvement might be found, however marginal.

"With 10 [group] games it's not like there is this big transition period where I can say 'you can go' and I will bring in all the young players that Ruud Dokter is telling me about," said McCarthy, a little while after his appointment had been confirmed at the Aviva stadium on Sunday.

“That’s going to be tough; it needs to be a team of Irish players that I think have a fair bit of experience. But if there are some good young players around that are pulling trees up then who knows. Declan Rice, if that’s the case, playing for West Ham, why not?”


Rice, he said, had had every right to take a step back after having been “overwhelmed” by the pressure of making a decision he perhaps had not anticipated.

“So he’s had that. I will go back and ask him now, and I will take Robbie with me, see if that has any bearing on it. He’s a good young player, and someone we should be looking to build a team around.”

Younger players

Beyond that, he said , it was a little too early for specifics although “I’ve got a list of the squad, I’m not daft. I’ve had it on my phone, and had a look at all players who qualify, and I’ll be going to watch them again whether they are playing in a 23s or a friendly game. Ruud Dokter will know the younger players. I’ll be doing my miles; we’ll have a look.”

His long-time assistant at Wolves and Ipswich Terry Connor, is, like Robbie Keane, already on board, but the rest of his management team has to be worked out in the coming weeks.

The preferred system appears to have been settled on already. McCarthy joked about having abandoned 4-4-2 since he was last around, and made it clear 3-5-2 would not be his thing. However, John Delaney revealed that in their discussions over the last couple of days the 59- year-old had indicated that 4-3-3 was the way he envisaged going.

He bigger question was how he feels about when he will be going and McCarthy insisted that, having initially hoped for a more open-ended offer, he is content with the chance he is being given just to manage his country again.

“I thought I might get two terms,” he said between displays of his trademark grin. “Who doesn’t want two terms, come on. But I knew that wasn’t the case so I accepted it, and was fine with it.

“I could have said ‘take it or leave it’ and they could have said, ‘see you, we’ll get somebody else’. They might have gone and given it to Stephen, and I wanted it. Honestly, it’s a real honour, privilege and pleasure to be getting it back.

Set in stone

He had, he said, stayed just a little too long the last time, and so might end up being the better for having a timeframe set in stone now.

“I think whether you’ve done good, bad or indifferent, you might as well shift yourself. If I’ve done well and we’ve qualified, there’ll be something else for me down the line. If we do badly and don’t qualify, you guys wouldn’t want me, nobody would. So it’s not such a bad thing.

“And good luck to Stephen. I looked at his list of achievements – pretty damn good. And I think it would be great for Irish football if he could take over a team that’s doing well and progress.”

He had just one thing really that he set straight for the record. “All that stuff about ‘unfinished business,’ it’s the biggest load of pony. It’s not. It’s new business.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times