Mick McCarthy will not lead the Republic of Ireland into their Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia after agreeing to put a premature end to his second stint in charge of his country. Stephen Kenny has stepped up from the under-21s to replace him with immediate effect.
It was always the long-term plan for Kenny to follow McCarthy, but the expectation was that the latter would have the opportunity to complete the Euro 2020 campaign; now he will not get that chance, as Ireland’s play-off against Slovakia, which was originally scheduled for March, has been pushed back until September. McCarthy’s contract was due to expire on 31 July and the Football Association of Ireland decided against extending it, instead sticking to the plan of allowing Kenny to take over. McCarthy and his assistant, Terry Connor, were informed of the decision on Saturday.
Gary Owens, the FAI interim chief executive, said: “This has been a difficult situation for the Association – and for Mick and Stephen in particular – in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the football calendar. I want to thank both men for their professionalism and their understanding in their dealings with the Association in these unprecedented circumstances.
“These are exceptional times in Irish life and Mick has taken that into account in agreeing to vacate the post early. On behalf of the FAI, I wish to express our gratitude to Mick for his service and commitment to our national team throughout his career and particularly in his second spell as Ireland manager.
“Stephen will now begin his planning for the play-off against Slovakia and everyone at the FAI wishes him well in our bid to qualify for Euro 2020. Football will be back and we have so much to look forward to now in the autumn with the Nations League and the Euro 2020 play-off, followed by the World Cup qualifiers in early 2021.”
McCarthy’s second reign lasted 10 matches and ended with October’s 2-0 defeat in Switzerland, the same opponents, coincidentally, who beat Ireland in November 2002 to finish his first stint in charge. October’s loss was Ireland’s only defeat during their latest qualifying campaign, in which they proved difficult to beat but struggled to score. They finished third in their group below Switzerland and Denmark, with their tally of seven goals in eight matches attesting to their creativity problems.
Kenny, who has enjoyed huge success in the League of Ireland with clubs such as Dundalk and Bohemians, has a reputation for playing enterprising football. He has guided the country’s under-21s to the top of their Euro 2021 qualifying group, above opponents including Italy and Sweden.