Mick McCarthy – Irish Soccer Manager
In February 1996 Mick McCarthy became the manager of the Republic of Ireland football team following the resignation of the highly successful Jack Charlton. McCarthy had played for, and captained, the Republic of Ireland when Charlton was the Irish manager and had earned a total of 57 international caps.
Prior to his appointment by the FAI as Irish manager he had managed Milwall FC in England for three years.
Mick McCarthy Football Background
Mick McCarthy was born in Barnsley, England on 7th February 1959. He began his professional football career playing for his local club, Barnsley FC and went on to make 272 appearances for the club. In 1983 he signed for Second Division Manchester City and it was with City that he played top flight football when the club won promotion to the old First Division.
In 1987 he joined Glasgow Celtic in Scotland and it was hear that McCarthy won his first major silverware as the club won the League and Cup double in his first season. He made 48 appearances for Celtic before transferring to Lyon in France.
He had little success with Lyon and only made 10 appearances for the French club. Mick McCarthy finished his playing days with Milwall making his last professional appearance in 1992.
Mick McCarthy – International Career
Mick McCarthy qualified to play for Ireland as his father was Irish and he made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 23rd May 1984 at Dalymount Park in a 0-0 draw. His first competitive match was in a 3-0 loss to Denmark 1986 World cup qualifier in Copenhagen in November 1984. Eoin Hand was the Irish manager at the time. McCarthy came into the team when Ireland was on a poor run of results however the appointment of Jack Charlton as Irish manager that heralded a golden era for Irish football and for Mick McCarthy. Often considered somewhat ponderous and less skilful than other Irish centre halves of the time, McCarthy suited the Charlton football style. McCarthy became a fixture in the Irish defence under Charlton and captained Ireland during the 1990 World Cup finals earning himself the nickname Captain Fantastic. His last match for Ireland was during the US Cup in June 1992 against Portugal.
Mick McCarthy as Republic of Ireland Manager
Following the resignation of Jack Charlton the FAI deliberated long and hard over who should replace the most successful Irish manager ever. Charlton would be a hard act to follow and the choice came down to just Mick McCarthy and fellow Irish centre half Kevin Moran. The FAI decided to go with McCarthy because of his three years managerial experience with Milwall. McCarthy’s task was made more difficult because the Irish squad was old and was in need of rebuilding.
Mick McCarthy’s First Match as Irish Manager
To facilitate the rebuilding efforts McCarthy undertook to play a series of eight friendly matches. His first match as Irish manager was a home match against Russia. It was an inauspicious start as the Russians won 2-0 and Ireland had Roy Keane sent off. It was not until McCarthy’s seventh game in charge that he tasted success with a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in the US Cup in New Jersey.
Developments During the Mick McCarthy Era
Mick McCarthy used a much less direct, and more creative, playing style than his predecessor Jack Charlton. This was a surprise to most fans and football pundits as McCarthy was an uncompromising player and was viewed as an acolyte of Charlton. McCarthy’s more attractive playing style was supported by the emergence of new young talented players such as Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Ian Harte, and Kenny Cunningham.
Mick McCarthy’s First Match Competitive as Irish Manager
Mick McCarthy’s first competitive match was the first tie in the 1998 World Cup qualifiers. On the 31st of August 1996 McCarthy kicked off his competitive international management career with a 0-5 win over Liechtenstein in Eschen. This was followed by a 3-0 home win over FYR Macedonia. Unfortunately the wheels cam off for McCarthy with a 0-0 home draw with Iceland and an away 3-2 loss to Macedonia. Ireland finished the qualifiers in second place in group 8 but a full ten points behind the group winners Romania. Second place was enough to qualify for a play-off with Belgium over two matches. Following a 1-1 draw at Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium) in the first leg McCarthy’s Ireland were beaten 2-1 with a 70th minute winner from Luc Nilis.
Euro 2000 Championship Qualification Campaign
For the 2000 Euro qualifiers Ireland drew Yugoslavia, Croatia, Macedonia and Malta in group 8. Yugoslavia and Croatia had strong teams at the time and qualification was a tall order. By this time Mick McCarthy’s squad bore little resemblance to that which he inherited from Jack Charlton. Despite this Ireland began the campaign with an impressive 2-0 home win over Croatia. Later in the group Ireland also dispatched Yugoslavia 2-1 at Lansdowne Road. Unfortunately away losses to the two Balkan states meant that Ireland finished up just a single point behind Yugoslavia and once again facing a two match play-off. Turkey provided the opposition in the play-off and an 84th minute penalty by Turkey’s Tayfur effectively settled the tie. That penalty earned the Turks a 1-1 draw at Lansdowne Road. The return match in Bursa ended in a 0-0 stalemate and Turkey qualified for Euro 2000 on the away goals rule.
2002 World Cup Qualification Campaign
The draw for the 2002 World Cup qualifiers was even more daunting than the previous campaign. McCarthy’s Ireland was drawn with European footballing powerhouses of the Netherlands and Portugal. Estonia, Cyprus and Andorra were also drawn in group 2. They idea of finishing ahead of either of the big two teams seemed highly improbable. Despite this Ireland started the group off with away draws with Holland and Portugal. An impressive start that could have been so much better had Ireland not let a 0-2 lead – with just 20 minutes to go – slip in Amsterdam. Ireland’s progress through the group was marked by some thoroughly compelling performances by captain Roy Keane. It was by no means a one-man show but in some matches the Corkman was the difference between success and failure. Ireland’s penultimate match in the group at home to Holland proved decisive. Despite being reduced to ten men Ireland triumphed through a fine strike by Jason McAteer. Ireland finished behind Portugal on goal difference but four points ahead of the Dutch. At the third time of asking Mick McCarthy led Ireland to a play-off victory against Iran on a 2-1 aggregate score and qualified for the 2002 World Cup. McCarthy had become only the second team manager to steer Ireland to a major football championship final competition.
2002 World Cup & The Saipan Incident
What should have been a unifying celebration of Irish football was blighted by the infamous Saipan Incident that involved a major row between Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, and Irish captain Roy Keane. This sorry episode is dealt with in great detail elsewhere in this site.
Ireland took to the field in the first group match on 1st June 2002 against one of the strongest African teams, Cameroon, with inspirational captain Roy Keane. Despite Keane’s absence and finding themselves 1-0 down in the first half the Irish team rallied in the second half and earned a creditable 1-1 draw.
The second match against Germany in Ibraki ended in an identical scoreline with Robbie Keane scoring an injury time equaliser. The third match was far more comfortable affair and Mick McCarthy’s team won 3-0 through goals from Robbie Keane, Gary Breen, and Damien Duff.
Five points was enough for Ireland to make it to the knockout stages for an encounter with Spain. Yet again Ireland fell behind in this World Cup as Morientes scored after eight minutes. After the normally dependable Ian Harte missed a penalty it looked like Ireland were heading home however Robbie Keane converted Ireland’s second penalty of the match in the last minute. This sent the match into extra time in which McCarthy’s men dominated but could not score. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out Spain emerged victorious. Matt Holland, David Connolly, and Kevin Kilbane all missed their penalties and Ireland really were heading home.
Mick McCarthy Resigns as Republic of Ireland Manager
The 2002 World Cup was the most dramatic period for Mick McCarthy during his term as Republic of Ireland manager. The schisms caused by the Saipan Incident left McCarthy in a vulnerable position and it was crucial that Ireland got off to a good start in the 2004 Euro qualifiers. The exact opposite happened as the Irish were badly beaten 4-2 away to Russia. Worse was to follow when Switzerland beat Ireland 1-2 at Lansdowne Road. The clamour from the pro-Roy Keane camp became unbearable for Mick McCarthy and the FAI. In November 2002 Mick McCarthy resigned as Irish manager. While McCarthy’s Irish football legacy will be blighted by the Saipan affair he has the distinction of being one, of only two, Irish managers to steer Ireland to the World Cup finals. Despite having to almost totally rebuild the Irish squad following Jack Chalton’s term McCarthy raised Ireland’s FIFA rankings from 54 to 13.
Mick McCarthy’ Record as Irish Manager
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
John Aldridge – George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – Johnny Carey