“You’ve got a head start if you have been in the team, that’s for sure.”
Mick McCarthy has said that he values loyalty and experience over promoting inexperienced, but promising, young players.
McCarthy spoke to the assembled media on Monday afternoon at FAI HQ in Abbottstown ahead of Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland.
He effectively ruled out the chances of any uncapped player starting in the game, saying it will not be a tie for debutants.
The team have been hit by injuries ahead of Thursday’s crucial game. James McCarthy has withdrawn due to a lack of match sharpness. The Crystal Palace midfielder has only played one full game since suffering a double leg break playing for Everton back in January 2018.
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has been replaced by Kieran O’Hara. While Matt Doherty has pulled out of the squad due to a knee injury and has been replaced by Cyrus Christie. Sean Maguire suffered a freak eye injury in training for Preston North End and has been replaced by James Collins, the Luton Town forward.
However, despite the withdrawals from the squad, McCarthy has chosen not to promote some of Ireland’s talented young players – such as Troy Parrot and Aaron Connolly, who will be part of Stephen Kenny’s under-21 team.
“It’s the sort of game that I wanted the experienced players to be fit for,” the Ireland manager said.
“(I want) experienced players (for this game), not debutants playing in it.
“So, I’m glad Conor (Hourihane) and Jeff (Hendrick) are back playing and I’m certainly delighted that Glenn (Whelan) has had his two games for Hearts.”
McCarthy also opted against calling-up Shane Long. The Southampton forward has been on the fringes of the first-team so far this season. The Ireland manager chose to call-up uncapped Collins, who has been playing for Luton, ahead of Long, but stressed the door isn’t closed on the Tipperary forward returning to the squad.
“He has made many appearances, what is he, sixth or seventh in terms of highest goalscoring? It’s still very much there for him,” McCarthy said about Long.
“As it is for Robbie Brady, who has a rib-injury. I would’ve thought that, if anybody analyses the players that are squad that, the strikers that I’ve picked in the squad, have all been playing. David McGoldrick starting in the Premier League. Robbo (Callum Robinson) scored in the Premier League. So, my logic is, players have to be playing.”
However, Jeff Hendrick has not been playing regularly for Burnley this season. The Dubliner has only seen four minutes of action in the Premier League and only made one start – in an EFL Cup tie against Sunderland, a game Burnley lost 3-1 at home to the League One side.
Yet, despite his lack of game-time at club level, McCarthy is not concerned about Hendrick.
“He played in a behind closed doors game. He played in a cup game the other night.
“And Jeff’s one of the most athletic players I’ve seen. One of the fittest guys I’ve had around the place. The distances he’s covered in the games that we’ve had. He looks great, he’ll be fine.
The Ireland manager also stated what he looks for when selecting players. McCarthy said that he will always favour experience and loyalty, which explains why he has not called up some of Ireland’s promising young players such as Parrott and Connolly, who will be part of Kenny’s under-21 squad for their European Championship qualifiers against Armenia and Sweden.
“Experience is key in these games. And I am loyal to people, certainly to the ones that perform when they play. So, you’ve got a head start if you have been in the team, that’s for sure.”
Ireland are currently top of Group D, with 10 points from four games, five points clear of second-place Denmark, who have a game in hand. McCarthy’s team are six points ahead of Switzerland, who have two games in hand due to their involvement in the Nations League finals.