Mick McCarthy has criticised the decision to persist with giving Declan Rice the Young Player of the Year award even after it became clear that the 20-year-old would not be playing again for Ireland.
The Ireland manager suggested that the midfielder would himself most likely be embarrassed by the decision, and feels that the award should either have gone to someone it mattered to or been dropped for this year.
“When I was told that he was getting it, I said ‘no way, why would he get it?’,” said the manager. “Give it to someone who would really appreciate it. He’s not going to appreciate it; he probably feels slightly embarrassed by it.”
As he revealed a trimmed-down squad for this month’s two European Championship qualifiers at a press conference actually held to unveil betting firm SportPesa’s new sponsorship deal with the FAI, McCarthy said that the journalists on the panel, drawn from the membership of the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland, had made “everyone look stupid”.
“I think that you should all have a look at yourselves. I was told that you guys – whoever it is – insisted that the integrity of the vote was maintained, and that’s why he got it. But it’s not you guys who get the brickbats afterwards,” he continued, in a reference to the criticism levelled at the FAI since news of the award broke, “which is wrong in my view”.
“He obviously did deserve it because he won it on merit. But for someone who has left and does not even want to play for us; why in earth would you consider doing it? Was it to embarrass him, to embarrass the FAI? I don’t see the reason for doing it.”
There were some notable names missing from the squad of 23 that McCarthy has named for the games against Gibraltar and Georgia. James McCarthy, Cyrus Christie and David Meyler are all omitted on this occasion for various reasons, while Stephen Ward, the manager revealed, has decided to retire from international football after eight years and 50 senior appearances for his country.
“I have spoken to him today and he is finished,” said McCarthy. “He’s not back playing yet, so he wants to concentrate on that as much as anything. I wasn’t expecting it.
“I think he was surprised, pleased, that he had been named in the squad. He shouldn’t have been, knowing it was me. I put him in the squad knowing that if I needed Wardy he would turn up, and if he turned up, whether he has played or not… I know how well he looks after himself, he keeps himself fit.”
McCarthy went back a long way with Ward, with the then Wolves manager having bought the Dubliner from Bohemians in 2007 for what he remembers as being something of a snip.
“Given what he has gone on to achieve, he has been one of the most successful purchases [I ever made]. What was it from Bohs, £100,000? I think we’d both think that it was a success. I do, and I am sure that he does.
“I bought him as a striker cum left winger but then, having had an injury, I played him at Charlton at left back, and he was outstanding. He played there ever since. I can never tell if someone is going to get 50 caps, but he was someone I came to rely on very heavily. He was a great player at Wolves for me.”
Ronan Curtis, meanwhile, like Alan Browne, has been included in the squad at this stage but both, it seems, will have to be replaced after picking up injuries.
In the former’s case the problem is not football-related, with the striker having lost most of a finger after catching it in a door.
“I just felt really bad for him because he’s had a great season,” said McCarthy. “He scored a blinding header there at Charlton last week at Saturday afternoon. I was looking forward to working with him; I was really impressed by him.
“He’s amputated 80 per cent, they said. Yeah, I mean…I was about to send him an emoji but I thought I better not because I don’t know him that well. There is a great emoji but I thought I better not. Had I know him better…he might have seen the funny side.”