With news this week that the Ireland Slovakia Euro 2020 playoff has been postponed again "until further notice" and will not be played in June as first hoped, it had put the question of the Ireland manager into further uncertainty.
With some confusion as to whether Mick McCarthy would step down in the summer to be replaced by Stephen Kenny or if that change would come after Ireland's involvement in the Euros ended (possibly in 2021), the FAI have moved today to quickly end the confusion.
This afternoon, The FAI have confirmed that Mick has been informed that the FAI will have Kenny in charge for the Slovakia game whenever that eventually takes place, and that their time as the Ireland management team is over with immediate effect.
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) April 4, 2020
The Football Association of Ireland announces that Mick McCarthy is to be succeeded as national team manager by Stephen Kenny with immediate effect. The handover has been agreed with both men in light of the delay to the European Championship play-offs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mick McCarthy’s contract was due to expire on July 31st after the UEFA EURO 2020 finals, with Stephen initially scheduled to step up from his Under-21 team role on August 1st. This move allows Stephen Kenny time to plan for the European Championship play-off semi-final against Slovakia later in the year.
Interim FAI CEO Gary Owens said: “This has been a difficult situation for the Association - and for Mick and Stephen in particular - in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the football calendar.
“On behalf of President Gerry McAnaney, the Board of the FAI and myself, I want to thank both men for their professionalism and their understanding in their dealings with the Association in these unprecedented circumstances. These are exceptional times in Irish life and Mick has taken that into account in agreeing to vacate the post early.
“On behalf of the FAI, I wish to express our gratitude to Mick for his service and commitment to our national team throughout his career and particularly in his second spell as Ireland manager. We wish Mick and his staff well and we thank them all for their hard work in this European Championship campaign to date.
“Stephen will now begin his planning for the play-off against Slovakia and everyone at the FAI wishes him well in our bid to qualify for Euro 2020. Football will be back and we have so much to look forward to now in the autumn with the Nations League and the UEFA EURO 2020 play-off, followed by the World Cup qualifiers in early 2021.”
It sets in train a new era for Irish football under the former Dundalk and current Republic Under 21 manager Kenny, one which has been awaited for 16 months since the strange timeline of McCarthy into Kenny was announced by John Delaney.
While there is no doubt a great excitement about the possibilities under Kenny and a new breed of Irish player such as Troy Parrott, Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly, Jayson Molumby, Jason Knight and many more, there will also be a lot of sympathy and sadness for Mick McCarthy.
The former Ireland captain and two-time manager is unlucky not to have been able to finish the one campaign he was brought in for in the strangest circumstances, and will now depart in even stranger circumstances, and will do so before he is able to fulfill the campaign he was appointed for.
It remains to be seen if Robbie Keane, who still has two years left on his contract, will remain part of the management team.