Some people still don’t get Mick McCarthy. Sadly, some people out there still don’t want to get him, understand him or appreciate him as we await the 2010 World Cup finals.
As you well know, events will unfold in South Africa this summer without Team Ireland and without the Irish fans who doubtless would have added their own splash of color to the Cape.
For reasons far too boring and way too old to go into here, we won’t be at the party when the world comes out to play in one of the most fascinating countries on Earth.
We’ll miss the big occasion for sure, but we’re used to it. Only once in the last 16 years has any Irish team made it to a major soccer tournament, and only three times in all have we played at a World Cup finals.
Mick McCarthy captained Ireland on our debut, all of 20 years ago in Italy when Ireland’s participation allowed me to skip a mandatory pre-nuptial course ahead of my wedding that August.
By the time we got to America in 1994 Mick was a retired footballer, manager of Millwall and a media commentator who called it as he saw it.
That has always been his way. In some eyes it is probably his downfall.
When Ireland got to Japan and Korea in 2002, Mick McCarthy was the manager who got them there after falling at the playoff hurdle in three previous championships.
That he is the last Irish manager to qualify for a major tournament tells you all you need to know about McCarthy the manager.
Brian Kerr, Steve Staunton and Giovanni Trapattoni have all failed to match his achievement, yet there are some out there who will tell you that Trap is a football God, ignoring the fact that his team blew World Cup qualification home and away against Bulgaria and Italy.
Trap, you see, has won things. He has more titles to his name than any other club manager in Europe, so there’s an air of invincibility never mind authority around and about him.
Those who fawn at his feet disregard the fact that this man was paid 4 million euro to try and get us to South Africa and failed, albeit with the help of that Thierry Henry handball in Paris.
McCarthy was never paid anything like Trap, yet he managed not just to survive a pathetic outburst from his captain in Saipan but to get us as far as a penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain in the last 16 game in Suwon all those years ago.
Naturally enough Mick won’t be remembered for that by some of those who wear red tinted glasses and view life only from a Cork or Manchester perspective.
As he admitted in the days and weeks post-Japan and Korea, Mick will be forever known as the “gobshite who sent Keano home” by those who sat on the other side of the fence.
That sort is still out there, and they raised their ugly little voices again in recent days on more than one Irish soccer forum on the web.
Our Mick has been back in the news because Wolves are within touching distance of safety in the Premier League.
A win at West Ham last Tuesday and a home point against high flying Everton on Saturday, coupled with bad results for the likes of Burnley, the Hammers and Portsmouth, means Mick is within touching distance of keeping Wanderers up.
That has brought him praise from many quarters in England. Just last Wednesday, Sky Sports were lauding him, and even the RTE sports desk got in on the act.
Some, though, aren’t happy. One particularly bitter little contributor to a website reminded us that Mick hadn’t realized Spain played the last few minutes in Suwon with only 10 players -- as if that has anything to do with Wolves and their current plight.
Thankfully Mick is as level headed and as brutally honest as ever. As the Sky interviewer pushed him on the safety issue last week, he refused to do anything other than look forward to the Everton match.
Even after that game he was adamant that relegation is still a live issue as far as his team is concerned, and he won’t be taking safety for granted until it is granted.
Meanwhile, one Roy Keane is battling to hang onto his job at Ipswich amid varying rumors.
Some claim he will be sacked any day now after his team’s 18th draw of the season, others believe he could be offered the Celtic job in the wake of Tony Mowbray’s dismissal.
By Tuesday night, however, the Glasgow rumor mill seemed more convinced that Keane’s former Manchester United colleague Mark Hughes will be getting the Parkhead job in the summer.
What’s certain in all of this is that Mick McCarthy will never satisfy a breed of people who saw only one side of the story in Saipan all those years ago when Ireland used to qualify for World Cup finals.
What’s also certain, as even he himself has acknowledged recently, is that Keano now understands there is far more involved as a football manager than there ever was as a mere football player.
It is taking His Corkness some time to get used to that, but he will get there in the end -- and probably with Ipswich despite all the rumors to the contrary.
Mick McCarthy isn’t there yet, but he is a lot closer. He’s been through the wars with Ireland and with Sunderland and he has come out the other side.
If Wolves stay in the Premier League -- and I do believe they will now -- then he will deserve all the credit he gets.
Sadly praise still won’t be forthcoming from certain quarters but, trust me, he won’t lose any sleep over it.
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