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Coronavirus pandemic must not become a civil war over Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny for FAI

Daniel McDonnell


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Thumbs up: Stephen Kenny is keen to move into the top Republic of Ireland job in August as originally intended

Thumbs up: Stephen Kenny is keen to move into the top Republic of Ireland job in August as originally intended

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy

�INPHO/Pascal Muller

Thumbs up: Stephen Kenny is keen to move into the top Republic of Ireland job in August as originally intended

McCarthy or Kenny? That's the question that most of the football public in the Republic of Ireland are asking in the aftermath of the decision to push Euro 2020 back to Euro 2021.

Never mind the impact of rescheduling a tournament that was supposed to generate serious money for the economy.​

Never mind the uncertainty for the casual employees that had been hired to cope with the FAI's host status.​

Never mind the reality that the Covid-19 stoppage has clubs and players on this island wondering if they will be able to pay their bills.​

Oh yes, and never mind the fact that the Republic actually haven't qualified and need to come through two away games in June to do so.​

That's if they take place, with the 'subject to review' line in the Uefa statement possibly most significant.​

In that context, Niall Quinn was correct to basically kick the can down the road in his interview with FAI TV - although he is certain to be pressed on it again when he next conducts a proper press briefing.​

However, there's little to be gained for officialdom by speculating on scenarios that may never come to pass.​

Public interest is public interest of course. In these uncertain times, we need things to debate and this is the type of hypothetical debate that will fuel countless discussions.​

But at a time where we are looking for a mature response from citizens to a period of difficulty, the football community has to follow the lead.​

A health crisis is not a window for opportunism. Nor should it be the catalyst for a futile FAI civil war.​

There has always been some FAI discomfort with the succession plan, no matter what spin Mick McCarthy or Stephen Kenny put on it. To be fair, it hasn't been fuelled by the two men involved.​

But it is known that there are people close to McCarthy who always harboured the hope that his time in the job would be extended. Kenny's success with the U21 team scuppered that. And the incoming boss has his eyes open to where doubts exist. Several ex-players loyal to McCarthy are sceptical of the view that Kenny is going to click his fingers and transform the personality of the team.​

Kenny can't control the expectations that are placed on him, but he will do things his way when the time comes.​

Central to that will be bringing staff on board that he trusts, which is why it's anticipated that Keith Andrews and other members of the U21 backroom will make the leap.​

They will bring serious goodwill, yet it would be a slight risk to jeopardise that if McCarthy's team win the hearts of the nation with unlikely play-off joy and there's a clamour to allow the incumbent to stay for the finals.​

This is about more than the Euros, though. It would mean McCarthy being in charge for the Nations League and the World Cup campaign which is supposed to function as the start of the Kenny era.​

It's hardly surprising that Kenny is determined to take over as scheduled in August 2020 because his ability to grow into the role would be severely compromised by this moving of the goalposts.​

That said, the optics of McCarthy being asked in the aftermath of contract joy would be challenging although it must be noted that Denmark's Age Hareide will be departing his job as per their plan due to the new 2021 date. Deals are deals.​

The convenient solution would be if McCarthy had a job in England lined up so he could ride off into the sunset, leaving on the high that eluded him the first time around.​

But that would also mean waving goodbye to the honour of leading the Republic of Ireland through a major tournament in Dublin.​

That would be tough, but the financial realities have to be taken into the equation too.​

It is known that McCarthy will be receiving a €1m handshake when he departs, a consequence of how the Kenny aspect of the package was finalised at the last minute by John Delaney.​

He's entitled to the deal that was agreed, but it has stirred anger and eroded sympathy for his compromised position.​

McCarthy is commanding a bigger wage than his replacement and keeping him on for longer would also have budgetary consequences.​

Granted, if the Republic secure the €12m or so from qualifying for the Euros, the FAI would doubtless say that it's worth it - missing out on the tournament would be the biggest headache of all.​

But if the play-offs are pushed on again, then the argument for keeping McCarthy on until September - for example - loses weight.​

It's not as if he brought the Republic to the play-offs. The Uefa Nations League ranking created by Martin O'Neill did.​

Yet it would be a shame if any argument was reduced to those jabs.​ There should be a concerted effort from all sides to avoid that indignity. Crossing that bridge when we come to it is actually the percentage call.

Belfast Telegraph