As the majority of the Irish squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers begin work at their training camp in Portugal today, Mick McCarthy says he has no fears that the 17-day-long run-up to the game against Denmark on June 7 will see any of his players fall victim to cabin fever.
“I thought long and hard about it and we’ll make sure that we’re not all work and no play,” he said at The Campus, the impressive training base on the Algarve which will be their home until next Tuesday.
Recalling that one of his own summer call-ups for Ireland saw him miss his brother’s wedding, the manager said he simply doesn’t “get” the idea of international footballers finding this kind of experience a chore.
“And I think most of the lads will be the same. I’ve not had one say to me, you know, ‘I just can’t get my head around that’ (laughs).
I remember training with lads who never really got games but turned up because they enjoyed turning up and wanted to be with their pals, their peers, and be involved in the squad and have a chance of playing.
After the protracted run-up to Euro 2012 — which saw Giovanni Trapattoni take his squad from Dublin to Gdynia in Poland, via Tuscany and Budapest — some of the players were heard to complain that a combination of cabin fever, coupled with intensive training throughout those weeks, had taken its toll by the time they kicked off a tournament which turned out to be one for Ireland to forget.
McCarthy’s take on this summer’s schedule is it’s important to get the balance right between work, rest and play.
”I’m cool with that,” he said. “I’ve been doing it a long time and I know full well if you have them trapped in the hotel, never going out and never doing anything, that’s going to cause a problem. Because it would have caused me a problem.
"And I have a really great ally in Robbie (Keane), who has been involved in all of those camps and experienced that. That’s real good info for me to pick his brains on. He’s quite happy to share that and chirp up and tell me.
"You can only train a couple of times a week. You can’t do that all of the time. It will be mixed up. It will be good fun I think.”
Given that McCarthy is without his Championship play-off personnel until the squad returns to Dublin, he was asked if, for the duration of their stay here in Portugal, the focus really can be on preparing for the big test against Denmark in Copenhagen.
“It is and it isn’t,” he said. “You would understand if I said that if Conor (Hourihane), Glenn (Whelan) and Richard (Keogh) come in then they will be playing, having played the way they did against Georgia. So I cannot prepare without them in terms of free kicks, corners, restarts, marking — all that. But I am sure that they will pick it up. But in the eight days prior to that we can prepare in terms of the way that we want to play and instil the shape of the team, whether it’s attacking or defending.”
McCarthy said that the call-up to this training camp for Bolton Wanderers starlet Luca Connell was in no way a response to reports earlier this year that the Liverpool-born 18-year-old midfielder was being monitored by England.
“No, no, not at all. He’s had a good season. I’m not going to stick him on the pitch for a minute just to cap him, no, unless he rips it up here and we all go ‘wow’! Who knows?
It’s up to him if he wants to play. I’m not getting into that old routine again. If he’s interested then we will see what he wants to do.
Addressing the issue of changing of the guard in the FAI’s administration, McCarthy said that he has already had a brief conversation with Noel Mooney who has been seconded from Uefa to take a leadership role at the crisis-hit association for the next six months.
“I met him once before,” said the manager. “He’s a very personable guy. I think he was at Millwall a million years ago. Not with me! I just had a brief conversation with him the other day. That’s all it was. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Asked if Mooney or FAI president Donal Conway will henceforth be his point of contact with the FAI, McCarthy replied: “I’ve not had that conversation. I’ve been speaking to Rea (Walshe, chief operating officer), to Donal. I’ll be speaking to Noel as well. We’re here and there is no reason for me to be contacting anybody. Cathal (Dervan, director of communications) is here and can contact anybody if we need. This will go ahead without any interaction.
“It runs like clockwork. (operations director) Barry Gleeson, the staff… I was very impressed the last two games how it was run. Fabulous organisation. I’m sure this’ll be the same.
And turning to look out at the sun-splashed state of the art Campus, he added: “Look at the place we’re in. It’s not bad is it? It’s fabulous.”