Mick McCarthy has been recently named as the new manager of the Boys in Green and with the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign soon, the excitement around the Irish camp is reaching new highs. Ireland are currently at 5/1 with the all the best betting sites to win their Euro 2020 qualifying group and proceed to the finals.
It is not the first time that Mick is taking the reins of Ireland: he was in charge from 1996 to 2002 and many will remember he was able to take a very talented group of players to the World Cup. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the second spell but there are some definite highlights of his first adventure in charge of Ireland.
It was Mick McCarthy who decided in 1998 to give the first cap to two of Ireland’s most excellent ever players: Damien Duff and Robbie Keane made their debut under Mick against the Czech Republic. Despite their early age, McCarthy was convinced that they will give a great contribution to the team and apparently he wasn’t wrong.
In fact, one of the most important successes of Mick McCarthy as Ireland manager was his willingness to take risks by fielding youth: the way he introduced Duff and Keane to the team was vital to transforming a decent team in an excellent one.
Another strong point about Mick McCarthy is that if he has an idea, he doesn’t give up easily. Even if Ireland lost that particular game against Czech Republic the injection of youth helped Ireland to do well in the Euro 2000 qualifiers where they missed a place in the finals only due to the away goals rule. Duff and Keane then became two of the best players Ireland have ever seen collecting caps for the following 15 years. They surely have to thank Mick McCarthy that had the gut to giving them a chance back in Mach 1998.
Another impressive result achieved by Mick McCarthy was the success over Holland in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. McCarthy masterminded one of the best Ireland wins of all times with the Boys in Green that defeated Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands. That result was crucial for Ireland to reach the playoff and subsequently qualify for the World Cup finals in 2002. Under Mick McCarthy Ireland had some fantastic nights on home soil but surely there is no doubt that that win in September 2001 at Landsdowne Road will remain in the memory of all Irish’s football fans.
Ireland went on to face Iran in the playoff. Even though Iran was a strong side, Ireland played two excellent games and secured a place in the Korea and Japan World Cup. After winning 2-0 at Landsdowne Road they conceded a 2-1 defeat in Tehran and got the job done with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Qualifying for the World Cup final was a fantastic achievement for Mick McCarthy with media that labelled the players as the ‘golden generation’: in fact, it was the first time in 12 years that the Boys in Green was heading for a major tournament.
During the World Cup McCarthy fall out with captain Roy Keane but this shouldn’t drag the attention away from the strong results achieved by Ireland on the pitch. In the first match, the Boys in Green managed to draw against Cameroon although that was the game that McCarthy wanted to win considering the had to face Germany in their second encounter. As expected Germany proved too strong for them yet Robbie Keane managed to score a late goal to give Ireland a point against one of the best teams in the tournament. In the third encounter Ireland comfortably defeated Saudi Arabia for 3-0 and qualified for the last 16 knockouts against Spain.
Ireland were incredibly unlucky to lose at penalties against Spain, but their overall group performance in the tournament was outstanding.
Ireland will be hoping to see similar excitement under McCarthy’s second spell which will effectively start with the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar later on this month.
It is difficult to see how far Ireland can go in this tournament after they have been drawn in Group D with the likes of Switzerland, Denmark, Georgia and Gibraltar. If McCarthy is able to recreate a solid team that can consistently win at least their home matches, then they have an excellent chance of qualifying. Their group is not too bad, and it is undoubtedly Switzerland the strongest competitor in the group with Denmark that are also very dangerous.
Although it won’t be easy for Ireland to qualify the feeling is that it is undoubtedly within their reach and that this will be a very balanced group.