McCarthy calls for focus on football instead of possible protest
‘It’s not going to help us play any better, that’s for sure’ warns Republic of Ireland manager
Mick McCarthy: “I’d just like them to come and support the team. If they have to demonstrate about anything, do it somewhere else at another time.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The only things he enjoyed in Gibraltar on Saturday, said Mick McCarthy, were “standing there as manager, the national anthem, the goal and the final whistle – that was about it”.
He was, then, hopeful that his first home game in charge of the Republic of Ireland since his return as senior manager would prove considerably more pleasurable, although he could do without having to play a bit of tennis on the touchline while attempting to watch his team take on Georgia.
After the morning’s training session at Abbotstown he arrived in the media room with a spring in his step, that chirpiness somewhat diminished when he was asked about talk of a protest by supporters at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening “against the FAI’s Executive Vice President and the governance of the Association in general”.
“That’s gonna be a hell of a title for his door that, innit?”
Indeed, added McCarthy, if that is the complete title for John Delaney’s new position with the FAI, then the door to his new office will have to be widened.
There was, he was then told, talk of tennis balls being thrown on the pitch as part of the protest.
“Maybe I’ll take a tennis racquet with me,” he said.
Would it all be a distraction for his players, though?
“I’ve been at games, I’ve been at Charlton when people have done it, it’s not going to help us play any better, that’s for sure, so I hope that’s not the case. I think we’ll try and overlook that, they’re coming to watch a football match and they want us to win, to give us the best chance, and that’s getting behind us and not having any outside influences effecting that.”
“Look, our fans – and I’m not just saying it because I’m back in the job – are the best fans, they’re fabulous, I’d just like them to come and support the team. If they have to demonstrate about anything, do it somewhere else at another time, because we don’t want to it affect the performance. None of it is affecting the preparation, by the way.”
When asked further about the prospect of a protest, McCarthy called a halt to discussing the issue.
“Can I just say something? Unless it’s guaranteed that there is going to be one, I’m not going to talk about it any more because we’re talking about a hypothetical, aren’t we? What am I going to say if we win, lose or draw? That’s all hypothetical until it happens. So, I’m not going to talk about it again, and if it’s brought up I’m just going to blank it.”
“We’re coming to play a game, that’s my issue, outside influences . . . I don’t get involved in things I can’t affect. The only thing I can affect is our preparation for the game, we try and make sure we pin everything down, nail it down, making sure it’s right, and then getting a good performance.
“If we do I think people will feel a lot happier about us, have a better feeling about the team. And that’s all I want. I’ve been here when we’ve had a great feeling, in ’88, ’90, ’94, 2002, when the mood was great and the fans were all behind us. I think that’s my job to try and get that back, and that’s all I can influence.”
With his focus solely on footballing matters, then, McCarthy talked of his feelings of excitement ahead of the game, although he couldn’t compare his second “debut” as Irish manager to the first, when he took charge of the team for a friendly against Russia 23 years ago, almost to the day.
“Apples and pears,” he said.
What’s the difference?
“One’s an apple and the other’s a pear.”
“I loved it the first time around, but I can’t compare the two. Despite the fact that I said I hated the game on Saturday, you all know it was because of the circumstances. That would have been up there as the worst defeat or result in Irish history.
“But it gives me as much pleasure and makes me feel as proud as when I did it before, when I used to walk up the steps in Lansdowne Road and stand and listen to the national anthem. So yes, I’m very, very excited and looking forward to it. I was nervous before the Gibraltar game, I said before it that the butterflies were walking around with their boots on, and I’ll be nervous before this one too. I hope that doesn’t go away because it show this means something to me. And I don’t ever want to lose that.”
Up for it, then. Now his team just have to make it game, set and match against Georgia.