News that is potentially divisive can be effectively buried if it is released at a time when there is other stuff going on that will overshadow it. A fuss won’t be made. The Football Association of Ireland [FAI] definitely took advantage of this truism when they announced recently that Mick McCarthy’s tenure as Republic of Ireland first team manager [his second spell in the post] had come to an end, with the handover to Stephen Kenny happening ahead of the original summer date. We were all too concerned about COVID-19 to bat an eyelid.
The question has to be asked though. If the FAI had approached Mick and said that due to COVID-19 and the deferral of Euro 2020 they wanted him to stay on, handing over to Stephen Kenny either after our involvement in the qualifiers [if we lose] or the actual finals [if we get through], would Mick have stayed on? I’ll wager he would have. Stephen Kenny would have had to fall in with this; he would have lost credibility if he had kicked up a fuss in that hypothetical situation.
There’s an argument that it doesn’t matter, why not just put Kenny in now and get on with it. Mick McCarthy can pick up a job in England so everyone’s happy. Except me, and possibly some others. I’m a journalist so I have to ask the question, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job.
Mick is a vastly experienced manager at club and international level, and that’s on top of his stellar playing career that saw him captain us to a World Cup quarter final in 1990. He is proven to be capable of getting more out of a squad than the sum of its parts. By that logic he should have been left in position until the journey to the Euros had been fully played out.
In my opinion the FAI made a huge mistake in 2018 by announcing Stephen Kenny as manager-elect when they appointed Mick. It was a fudge. McCarthy was the superior candidate and should have been given the position without any straitjacket applied to his tenure. They could have righted that wrong if they had used the COVID-19 situation as a way of keeping Mick on until 2021, instead they have used it as a way to unstick themselves from their own fudge.
I’ve nothing against Stephen Kenny. My issue here isn’t with him but with the FAI. I wish Stephen the best of luck in the Ireland job, and he will have my support. As a League of Ireland fan all my life it is great to see one of our own getting the top job. Will I always be left wondering though about Mick’s missing last chapter?