As the Irish Echo was going to print, an FAI press conference had been arranged in which it was expected the association’s officials would confirm McCarthy’s resignation.
In the end, a compromise was reached between McCarthy and the FAI. The association were reluctant to sack the manager since that would have meant paying out the rest of his contract, a move that, it is thought, would have cost the FAI in the region of euro 300,000. McCarthy, meanwhile, felt he was worth some sort of payoff, even though, ordinarily, resigning would have precluded any such move. Still, he wanted out, the FAI wanted him out, and it was clear some money would have to change hands.
Although details of McCarthy’s payoff remain confidential, it is thought that a sum of in or around euro 100,000 was agreed between him and the association.
If McCarthy had been guilty of several indifferent decisions that spawned several disastrous results in the past, his stock had risen considerably during last summer’s World Cup finals when Ireland reached the last 16 only to be eliminated on penalties by Spain — so much so, in fact, that the FAI saw fit to pay him a bonus of $150,000 during the tournament and extend his contract into 2004.
But as the dust settled after the finals and McCarthy began preparations for the European Championship qualifying games, it became clearer that the specter of Roy Keane continued to haunt the manager’s every move. Keane, the former Ireland captain and the team’s best player, had been sent home by McCarthy following a blazing row during preparations for the tournament on the Pacific island of Saipan.
The furor, and the endless publicity that followed, hardened the resolve of those who had been critical of McCarthy. Here was a manager who had proved himself incapable of winning the loyalty of his most valuable performer and Keane’s scathing comments regarding McCarthy’s shortcomings as a coach only served as grist to the mill.
For a while, and especially in the finals when the Irish played bravely without their talismanic midfielder, it appeared that McCarthy would ride out the storm. But then the publication of Keane’s autobiography, which had been ghostwritten by Eamon Dunphy, one of McCarthy’s harshest critics, reopened the wounds of Saipan, and then the team lost both opening games in the European Championship qualifying group.
The 2-1 loss to Switzerland at Lansdowne Road was received by some booing and, subsequently, McCarthy was linked with the managerial job at English Premiership club, Sunderland — a mix that suggested strongly that he wanted to cut his ties with Ireland. Last week, he admitted that his players were being adversely affected by the constant speculation about his future.
“The awful thing is that they are being dragged down by this,” he said. “I could be bloody-minded and go all the way through this, whatever happens. But is that the right thing?”
On Nov. 20, Ireland have a friendly game against Greece in Athens and McCarthy was asked if he planned to be in charge.
“We’ll see,” he said last week. “The problem for me is that if it becomes ‘my last game’ or ‘should he go?’ then it affects the team and I can’t have that. That’s when it becomes the time to go, I guess.”
Before Tuesday’s resolution, the FAI fired the first shot by stating that the bonus McCarthy received at the World Cup would serve as an adequate payoff.
“If there are going to be severance talks with Mick, the FAI’s starting and finishing position as far as money is concerned is nil,” a senior association source said.
It seemed for a while that the FAI was so determined not to offer McCarthy a settlement that its officers were prepared to leave McCarthy in place, and gamble that a continuation of the relationship would likely be more damaging to the manager than to the association.
However, McCarthy’s agent has said last week that his client’s future would not be determined by money.
“If and when Mick goes, be it in a week, a month, a year or two years, money will not be the issue,” Liam Gaskin said. “The welfare of the squad is the most important thing. He recognizes that the FAI have been good to him, just as he’s been good for them.”
So, it’s all gone downhill rapidly. After the Keane incident in Saipan, McCarthy admitted that his life would never be the same again. He got that one right. And now he’s out of a job
(Malachy Clerkin contributed to this story.)