Liam Brady has paid a heartfelt and glowing tribute to Paul McCarthy, the Cork-born former Ireland U21 international whose sudden death a week ago at the age of 45 came as a huge shock to the football community both here and in Britain.
McCarthy was a centre-half who had only just turned 22 when Irish legend Brady became his manager at Brighton in 1993, a challenging period when the Seagulls were among the favourites for relegation from Division Two.
“He was a very determined and committed player and in the difficult situation I found at the club when I came in, I needed people like him,” Brady recalled.
“We were second from bottom and Paul was one of the reasons why we got out of that situation, the support came back for the team and we finished the season halfway up the table. For one so young, he was outstanding for us. He learned a lot from playing with (fellow centre-half) Steve Foster — they had an excellent partnership.
“As a player, Paul was a big lad, good in the air, totally committed in the tackle.
“And because of the outstanding commitment he played with, he was really popular with the fans. He was already a leader, a captain in the making and, given the difficult situation when I got to Brighton, he was exactly the kind of lad we needed — all hands to the pump.”
When McCarthy died last Sunday week of a suspected heart attack, Brady was abroad.
Belatedly hearing the news only added to his sense of shock and sadness at the loss of a man whose full-on approach on the field, he remembers, was matched by a warm personality off it.
“He was always in a good mood, always jovial. No sourness.
“He was one of those lads who was very generous: Great in the dressing room, great with his team-mates, a good influence with younger players. He’d go out of his way to help people, even around the club — the groundsman, the office staff. He was just so good with everyone.
“I’m not surprised that he played so many games for Brighton and for Wycombe because he was one of those lads you wouldn’t want to let go from a football club.”
In extending his condolences to McCarthy’s family and friends, Brady concluded: “Paul was such a good character and such a nice man, and that is why I am so shocked. And I can imagine that the people close to him really, really loved him because he was a tremendous guy.”
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