Mick McCarthy the early favourite for Ireland job
A number of factors point to a second stint for McCarthy who left the job in 2002
Mick McCarthy is currently without a club and is heavily favoured to be named the next Ireland manager. Photo: Mark Cosgrove/Action Plus via Getty Images
Mick McCarthy will be viewed a strong early frontrunner to succeed Martin O’Neill as the FAI starts the process of weighing up its options. The association is expected to move quickly to appoint a new man with the hope being to have a manager in place by the time the draw for the European Championship qualifiers takes place in Dublin at the start of next month.
While no decisions have been made, McCarthy has the key advantages over rivals of having experience in the role, being keen to take it on again, and being available to do so immediately.
Other obvious candidates like Chris Hughton and Brendan Rodgers are, in contrast, tied into long-term contracts, at Brighton and Celtic respectively. Rodgers signed a four-year deal in 2017, Hughton a three-year one in May of this year, both of which expire in 2021.
That means that even if they wanted the job at this moment in time, securing their services would require the payment of substantial compensation to their clubs and potentially protracted negotiations over the amount involved. Both men would also command very substantial salaries.
There will be no shortage of outside interest in a job of this prominence and the association is likely to give it a little time to see who makes their interest known over the coming days. If a European coach with the sort of reputation that Giovanni Trapattoni had when he was appointed a decade ago, did so then they would be bound to be considered.
Of the other outsiders mentioned in the early betting, Sam Allardyce perhaps looks the most plausible, with the former Bolton and Everton boss having a record of taking over teams during difficult times and achieving specific goals. Getting Ireland to the European Championships is very much the target here and the 64-year-old, who started his management career at Limerick and saw his spell in charge of England cut short after a newspaper sting, would certainly have few doubts about his own ability to deliver.
Stephen Kenny would be a hugely popular choice among League of Ireland supporters but he seems unlikely to get the opportunity on this occasion.
The association will be looking for somebody who might be regarded as “a safe pair of hands” and for all his enormous success with Bohemians, Derry City and, in particular, Dundalk, Kenny is unlikely to be viewed that way in an international context at this stage.
McCarthy, on the other hand, can point to his achievement in getting Ireland to the World Cup in 2002 and the relative success of the team in the tournament after a traumatic build-up. His part in the departure of Roy Keane from the squad ahead of the tournament will, of course, count heavily against him among a significant section of the team’s support.
Keane himself might have been a candidate had O’Neill moved on in different circumstances but the Corkman would be very unlikely to want the job now and just as unlikely to be offered it. He was also damaged by the revelations regarding his rows with Jon Walters and Harry Arter at the start of the summer with the latter having temporarily made himself unavailable for selection as a result.
McCarthy, on the other hand, has made no secret of his desire to return and he will certainly be well aware of the job he would be taking on. His relationship with John Delaney was not considered to be good when he departed in 2002 but that seems unlikely to pose much of a problem at this stage.
He may not be at the top of whatever wish-list they are drawing up in Abbotstown this afternoon, but he certainly ticks enough boxes to justify his status as the early favourite.