McCarthy puts on poker face as question of old foe Keane arises

EW ERA: New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill  with the national jersey in London yesterday. Picture:  Sportsfile

If Mick McCarthy is feeling some relief that he won’t have any more of his Ipswich Town press conferences hijacked by questions about the Ireland job, he wasn’t showing it yesterday.

The frustrated former international manager met a series of queries on the new Martin O’Neill-Roy Keane Ireland management era with silence when asked for his thoughts at his weekly club press conference.

McCarthy initially reminded reporters that he had told them who the new manager would be as long ago as September, shortly after Giovanni Trapattoni’s exit.

“I told you in here six weeks ago what was going to happen and you kept badgering me,” he said. “It was Martin’s to turn down, it was his gig, in my view, and I don’t think he was ever turning it down.

“I might be wrong, they might tell me it’s different. I said he was a shoo-in and that was the case.”

But questions on what he thought of O’Neill’s surprise alliance with McCarthy’s Saipan nemesis Roy Keane were repeatedly blanked, apart from the sarcastic: “Well, it beats asking me whether I’d be interested in it.”

Pressed further on his views regarding Keane’s appointment — given the player’s tumultuous relationship with the FAI and McCarthy during the latter’s stint as manager between 1996 and 2002 — the Ipswich boss took the opportunity to remind his reporters of his own success at the helm.

“I had a great time, went from 59th to 13th in the world, I think it was that, and lost out in the last 16 of the World Cup 2002 on penalties,” he said. “I had a great time, I loved it. I was successful, actually, did alright there.”

It also emerged yesterday that McCarthy is set to add Ireland international Stephen Hunt to the Ipswich squad. The 32-year-old, a free agent since leaving Wolves in the summer, has been training with the Championship side and is expected to put pen to paper on a short-term deal until January.

Meanwhile, Richard Dunne has welcomed Martin O’Neill’s appointment and believes his new international manager and Roy Keane will work well together.

“I think he is a great appointment and he will certainly get everyone up for the games,” said the QPR defender, who will miss the matches against Latvia and Poland as he continues to manage his recovery after a long period out of the game last season. “His motivational skills are well known and he has a good squad of players that he is coming into. It gives everyone a fresh start.

“The two of them [O’Neill and Keane] have become good friends so it makes sense if the manager is a friend of Roy’s and trusts him, then that’s what you want by your side. Like Martin, Roy is a determined character and a lot of people are making judgments and opinions on what might be. But I think you have to let them get on with it and see what will be. The Irish public is behind them.

“There are so many things that Roy has said, he could have upset the whole world. But it’s football and everyone has their opinion. You just move on and that’s the way it is.”

Encouraging news for O’Neill — who will be officially unveiled as the new Ireland manager in Dublin tomorrow afternoon — is that midfielder Darron Gibson is already ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery. Everton boss Roberto Martinez has delivered an upbeat bulletin on Gibson, who suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in the match against Kazakhstan.

Martinez said: “Darron has responded very well after the surgery. He is already two weeks into the process and probably ahead of what we expected in the way that he has reacted.

“It will be a lengthy recovery but hopefully we can see him back as soon as possible. Darron has already surprised everyone with how he’s recovering because he’s been around and put weight on his knee.

“He’s very positive.”

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