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25th Nov 2018

“You cheeky bollocks!” – The key takeaways from Mick McCarthy’s first press conference as Ireland manager

Dave Hanratty

Mick McCarthy Ireland press conference

Well, technically it’s not his first but you know what we mean.

Mick McCarthy is the new Republic of Ireland manager, having been officially confirmed on Sunday afternoon.

Stephen Kenny was named as U21 boss, and he will also oversee all levels of youth development before succeeding McCarthy following the European Championships in 2020.

Kenny was not present at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, as he will be unveiled to the public on Monday afternoon.

Introduced by a buoyant John Delaney, who underlined that this is a hugely exciting time for Irish football, McCarthy cut a relaxed figure before the gathered photographers and journalists.

There were several pertinent questions to address including the proposed short timeline of the role, his relationship with Stephen Kenny, Robbie Keane’s new position, the Declan Rice issue and, of course, Saipan.

McCarthy tackled them all, and here are the key takeaways.

The arrangement works for him

With many wondering what will happen if McCarthy does a brilliant job and actually wins the Euros or something, he was quick to note that the contract suits him just fine, thanks.

“I’m happy enough with that,” he said. “It’s for two years to qualify for the European Championships and you know what, you’ve given me all the scenarios:

“If we do really well and we get to the final and we win it, do they want me to stay? Well, there might be a push for me to stay. There might also be a job in the Premier League that would want me and I might want to move on there.

“And if we do badly and don’t qualify, then you won’t want me here, anyway! So it kind of fits, for me. It works.”

The Stephen Kenny situation

How well does McCarthy know Stephen Kenny? Not very well at all, by his own admission.

“That’s not an issue, though. I’m working with the national team with TC [Terry Connor] and Robbie [Keane].

“We’ve got some good young players and Stephen will be hopefully shoving players through from the Under-21s and banging their drum.”

McCarthy noted that there isn’t a lot of time in which to develop a relationship between the pair, but they intend to have dinner together on Sunday evening, joking that Kenny will pick up the bill.

Robbie Keane offers a certain specific charm

It didn’t take terribly long for McCarthy to turn the air blue, noting that one of his new assistants is a “cheeky bollocks” for suggesting himself for the backroom staff.

“He is cheeky!” insisted McCarthy. “He played cheeky, didn’t he? He was impudent at 18 when I gave him his debut.

“There’s more to him now, he’s serious about his football. He always loved his football. Sometimes we used to clap him in training, the things he did, he was such a talent.

“He’s got his head screwed on in terms of wanting to be a coach, a manager, in his own right. If we talk about succession – whatever happens to me in two years time, he should be part of that succession because he’s got a lot to offer.”

Declan Rice

The status of Declan Rice proved a major thorn in the side of the O’Neill/Keane administration, with critics lambasting the previous set-up for failing to secure Rice’s commitment.

As it stands, that status is up in the air with reports that Rice favours a future with the English national team.

“I’ll just clear some misconceptions up that Declan wasn’t here for the games because he had a falling out with Roy, or with Martin,” began McCarthy.

“He’s got the utmost respect for both of those guys. But he was asked by Gareth Southgate to go up and see St. George’s Park and see if he could be enticed into playing for them.

“And of course, there’s a cry then that he shouldn’t play and there’s lots of different opinions. He didn’t say he wanted to or didn’t want to, but he found it overwhelming.”

McCarthy suggested that Rice should concentrate on establishing himself in the West Ham United team in the meantime.

“He’s doing well and I’m going to go and speak to him in December when his father is around and sit down and have a chat with them both.”

And as for Saipan…

Ah yes. That enduring incident.

“My memory has gone in the last 16 years,” laughed McCarthy when the spectre of World Cup 2002 was raised.

“I honestly believe that both my career and Roy’s career shouldn’t be remembered or should be determined by that. Both [of us] had successful playing careers. Him an unbelievable one, far better than I, but I’ve gone on and had a pretty successful career as a manager.

“I think I’d like to be remembered for that and I think Roy, in Ireland, should be remembered for what a wonderful player he was.

“The fact that we got to Saipan, he was a big part of that, instrumental. I have the utmost respect for him for that and so if people want to talk about it, good luck, but I won’t be answering any more questions about it.”

Featured image via FAI