Isn’t it time Ireland forgave Mick McCarthy?

Liam Mackey and John Riordan argue both sides of the debate

He has his flaws but he’s a good manager

The case for: Liam Mackey

IF, after all that’s gone before, the Irish can find it in their hearts to let bygones be bygones with the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, then you’d like to think we could do something similar for a bloody big stopper from Barnsley.

And, ideally, without having to wait for the passing of another seven hundred and ninety years or so.

Or, to put it another way, until Arsenal win a trophy again.

I appreciate, of course, that as the pundits like to say, it’s a big ask.

After all, to get the point where we could pour an ‘oul pint for Lizzie without feeling an overwhelming urge to throw in the slops, we only had to negotiate a few minor hiccups like the penal laws, the famine, the black and tans, partition and Jimmy Hill.

Whereas making peace with Mick McCarthy would, inter alia, involve casting aspersions on Roy Keane and sure that’d be tantamount to handing over what little is already left of our own sovereignty.

They don’t call him His Corkness for nothing, you know.

Ah, but seriously folks, I’ve no intention of re-waging the great Saipan war here.

If, after nearly ten years, there are those who still hold that Mick McCarthy was the sole villain of that piece, they’re hardly going to have their minds changed now.

Let’s leave them to tend the weeds in their own garden of remembrance and move on.

Just, indeed, as Mick McCarthy and the Irish team did within days of that unholy debacle.

Not that they had any choice in the matter. While the rest of us had the luxury of keeping the battle raging in print, on the airwaves, in homes and in pubs, Mick McCarthy had to pull himself and his players up from rock bottom to compete against some of the best the 2002 World Cup had to offer.

And how magnificently well he and they did that job, providing so many memorable moments and so much good football against Cameroon, Saudi Arabia and Germany before cruelly bowing out against Spain in a heartstopping encounter in Suwon which — getting something right for once in their lives — FIFA officially dubbed the game of the tournament.

Lest we forget too, Mick McCarthy was a key figure in helping Ireland onto the great stages of world football in the first place, at Euro ‘88 and Italia ‘90. It was during one of those qualifying games in Dublin that a terrace shout passed into legend when, as McCarthy embarked on a rare sortie upfield with the ball at his feet, a voice cried out: “Show ‘em your culture, Mick.”

Nobody, and least of all McCarthy himself, would have ever confused him with Franco Baresi.

But he was a rock at the heart of the Irish defence, an inspirational captain to those around him and, lest there be any doubt about it, his blood ran as green as that of any Irishman’s son who just happens to be born on a foreign but not too distant field.

I hope Mick McCarthy not only survives but thrives with Wolves tomorrow.

He has his flaws, like the rest of us, but for me the overwhelming weight of evidence has always pointed to him being a good player, a good manager and, most importantly, a good man.

Despite what you might just have heard to the contrary elsewhere and in the long ago.

Ego-maniac will be scrubbed from history

The case against: John Riordan

FULL disclosure: the only thing I find hard to fully accept about the Roy Keane version of those infamous events which directly led to his missing out on the World Cup in Japan and South Korea is that it occurred almost a decade ago.

That’s ridiculous — the rest is fine.

Feel free to call it Cork bias on my part. My belief in and admiration for Keane’s unique brand of honesty (so often destructive) has nothing to do with his Manchester United career or even his stint in the Ireland midfield.

Football is meant to be tribal and irrational — an aspect of the game most of us miss out on through growing up in Ireland.

The majority of people who declare themselves football fans are not divided along county or city lines but rather by the English team whose success they happened to grow up alongside.

So if my enduring coldness towards Mick McCarthy — which stems largely from his bull-headed destruction of Roy Keane’s last chance at a World Cup — was pigeon-holed as some sort of blind loyalty to a fellow Corkonian, I’d take it as a compliment.

Those of you with an ability to see beyond one dimension are encouraged to read on.

Before I rake up the smouldering coals of 2002, let’s look very briefly at what has become of both men.

Both Roy Keane’s attempts at management have been deemed — overall — as a failure.

McCarthy, on the other hand, has endured.

But digging a little deeper, what does that really say about either individual?

There’s a lot wrong with the Premier League and I fully believe that during his time as Wolves boss, McCarthy has been an active part of that. Which isn’t exactly a criticism. If his instinct is to survive in what is a pretty sordid industry, then so be it.

Even though he has admirably offered Alex Ferguson carte blanche to send out his ‘reserve team’ against fellow relegation candidates Blackpool tomorrow, many English pundits without any interest in the Ireland team will still see this as a nice slice of what-goes-around-comes-around.

The former Ireland centre-back has no real interest in football per se. He has been conditioned to use it as a tool of self-preservation. Tomorrow will be no different when he sends his Wolves side out to face fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers at Molineux.

Admittedly, McCarthy is not the only aggressive ego-maniac to be given the run of a dressing room.

And yet nobody can deny that it was his ill-timed power-grab that led to the drama of 2002.

Of course, the most ironic aspect of Mick McCarthy’s little moment in the Saipan sun is that Roy Keane’s biggest detractors will never back up their ‘traitor’ jibes with support for the actions of the other protagonist.

It will always be “Keane walked out on his country”, and for that reason alone every Corkman will be guilty by association from here to eternity.

I read last week that all public sign of Hosni Mubarak’s rule was literally being scrubbed off the Egyptian landscape.

This cleansing policy has its roots in the Roman Empire where damnatio memoriae was the highest insult for someone who’d fallen out of favour.

Mick McCarthy’s ego — like all footballing egos — will be damaged most when it’s finally irrelevant in the grander scheme of things. He should be forgotten, not forgiven.


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