The second honeymoon period is well and truly over for Mick McCarthy as Ireland continue to struggle to qualify for a major tournament they’re helping to host.
While they very much remain in the hunt for Euro 2020 qualification, this was facilitated by the fixture schedule and it’s hard to envision a shock result against Denmark next month.
That being said, they are still just one win away from qualifying for a tournament that a year ago looked nigh on impossible. So why is the mood around Irish football as bleak as it was in 2018?
It all comes down to the style of football deployed by McCarthy. His regimental approach to football is turning away the modern fan who finds it rigid, rudimental and downright boring.
Saturday’s performance against 91st ranked Georgia was, to be quite honest, a slap in the face to the few thousand fans who spent hard-earned cash travelling to Tbilisi.
The two performances against Gibraltar were pathetic and the fact they’ve scored just six goals in seven games with three of those coming against the minnows is a bit of a joke really.
Towards the end of Martin O’Neill’s reign, there was serious discontent among supporters due to the poor performances, lack of tactical nous and inability to put the ball in the net. When Big Mick was announced as his successor there was genuine optimism in the air because of McCarthy’s reputation as an infectious manager who rallies the players around him.
It started off so well with successive one-nil wins against poor opposition followed by Shane Duffy’s late equaliser in Copenhagen, a draw that in many respects felt like a win. But in hindsight, not much has changed.
As a nation, we’ve never been blessed with world-class talent but right now, the national team looks in a state of disarray with players either long past their sell-by date or just not cut out for international football.
Is Mick McCarthy to blame for this though?
The Barnsley native jumped aboard an already sinking ship with the clear direction being to steer it. He wasn’t asked to build a new one, simply mend the wreckage. For that reason alone he can’t be the sole person to blame for the current misfortunes.
After the fiasco that was 2018 Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, what were we really expecting from such an underwhelming appointment?
Nowhere in his CV does it highlight a manager known for playing expansive, attacking football that wins trophies. He’s a survivor, always has been and always will be, his goal was to help this current team survive the wreckage of 2018.
He is the embodiment of Jack Charlton’s Ireland. The only problem is that Charlton had quality players within his squads, meaning the style of football never really came into the conversation.
The situation McCarthy has been parachuted into has been a mess from the get-go. Let’s hire a manager for the sole reason of qualifying for a major tournament before giving another manager a go at the gig in less than two years. A clueless plan drawn up by an administration that has shown itself to be just that, clueless.
It’s easy to look at the Under-21s, who are thriving under Stephen Kenny, and say that the talent is there and needs to be promoted to the senior team. But you have to believe the reason Kenny is with the Under-21s is a step in the right direction. A long-term vision.
While Kenny is the long-term plan, Mick is most definitely the short-term and with such a short window to work through with a clear objective in mind, it is hardly the right situation for him to identify young talent, blood them into the team then nurture them through the world of international football. Given the time constraints, that would never have worked.
It’s a results business and thus far, Ireland’s run of results means there aren’t many grounds for complaints considering that one loss in seven competitive games is a good return all things considered. Denmark is effectively a cup final and that’s not a bad position to be in.
Results are the only facet of the game that McCarthy cares about and it shouldn’t be any different. After all, he’s on that short-term contract with the one goal being to qualify for next year’s European Championships. Mick’s doing just that the only way he seems to know-how. If they qualify, then it becomes about making an impact on the tournament. But following that McCarthy’s time is up, he’s out of here for good.
Only then should we begin to worry about the re-building process. Surely that’s why Kenny is waiting in the wings building a team of his own before graduating to the senior set-up? The current plight isn’t McCarthy’s fault, he just hasn’t really helped the situation.