Mick McCarthy is set to return for a second spell as manager of the Republic of Ireland after agreeing to replace Martin O’Neill, who left the role on Wednesday. McCarthy’s appointment, reportedly on a two-year deal, is expected to be rubber-stamped over the weekend following his acceptance of an offer from John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland.
McCarthy, who won 57 caps for Ireland as a player, will thus fulfil a longstanding ambition to manage his country for a second time, having enjoyed a mostly positive six-year reign until resigning amid acrimony in 2002. The completion of the deal will mean the FAI will have made good on their wish to recruit swiftly after parting company with O’Neill and his assistant, Roy Keane, this week.
Those departures came on the back of 12 months of dismal performances by Ireland, who were relegated from their Nations League group even before Monday’s 0-0 draw with Denmark. The prospect of missing out on Euro 2020, for which Ireland is one of 12 host countries, convinced the FAI to make a change.
McCarthy’s availability – he has been out of work since stepping down as Ipswich Town manager in April – and experience made him the FAI’s top target, although they also sounded out Stephen Kenny, the manager of League of Ireland champions Dundalk. McCarthy plans to bring his longtime assistant Terry Connor with him, while Ireland’s record goalscorer, Robbie Keane, may be given a coaching role.
McCarthy’s first spell as manager began in 1996 when he replaced Jack Charlton and gradually introduced a more attractive style of play while assembling a new squad. He won 43% of his 68 games at the helm. The highlight of his reign was qualification for the 2002 World Cup from a group featuring Holland and Portugal but the experience infamously turned sour when the manager and his then captain, Roy Keane, had a furious row on the eve of the tournament.
Ireland reached the knockout stages without Keane but the episode left the country’s football community bitterly divided and when criticism of the manager intensified following a poor start to the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, McCarthy walked. Now he is set to go back on a mission to guide his country to Euro 2020.