And so it's farewell to Mick McCarthy from the people of Ireland. The plan all along was for Stephen Kenny to take over this summer, but it's all come a little earlier than expected, both in real time and especially in football time. Mick didn't have his chance to take Ireland to a second major tournament in the end.
While many will be happy to get on with the onset of a new generation under Kenny, it's important to take time and thank Mick McCarthy for his service to Irish football. From his debut in green in 1984, to leading us to Italy for Ireland's greatest moment, to being the man to take over from Big Jack, to the World Cup in 2002, to coming back to finish the job 16 years later, the man from Barnsley with the Waterford family never failed to answer his country's call in 36 years.
Mick made his debut for Ireland under Eoin Hand in 1984, playing, as Ireland did in most matches back then, against Poland. The game ended 0-0.
When Jack Charlton arrived in 1986, he had found his perfect man at the back. He was also a natural leader, filling in as captain in Frank Stapleton's absence before taking over full time from the striker in the 1990 qualifying campaign.
In 1987, he captained the team in our famous 1-0 win against Brazil at Lansdowne Road.
Mick was Jack's kind of player. At Euro 88, his place in the team came under a lot of scrutiny from Brian Clough. Ireland would have no chance against the mighty England with Big Mick at the back.
Despite Clough's delight at his inclusion, McCarthy had a stormer, holding England scoreless in the most famous win in Irish history.
McCarthy would lead his country as "Captain Fantastic" for Italia '90.
Playing in all five games, his most famous contribution was probably his gentleman's agreement with Ruud Gullit to play for a draw during the last group game against Holland.
With centre-half partner Kevin Moran, he certainly enjoyed Ireland's day in Genoa.
After we were beaten by Italy in the quarter final, his post match interview shows a discomfort with glorious defeat so often associated with his future nemesis Roy Keane.
He made his 50th cap against England a few months after the glorious summer in Italy. And he was eager to celebrate the occasion with the greatest goal of all time.
Look at this like pic.twitter.com/GRvsNWtZfK
— Michael McCarthy (@McCarthyMick) March 20, 2020
Mick was back in 1996, just four years after he'd played his last game for Ireland. He was the obvious choice to take over from Charlton but there was a fear it could be a poison chalice. An aging team had just collapsed in the second half of the Euro 96 qualifiers.
The France 98 campaign was ultimately a disappointment, finishing behind Romania and losing a playoff to Belgium. It was a campaign defined by Ireland's loss to Macedonia, a country who weren't done with Mick just yet.
The Euro 2000 campaign was a tale of almost for Mick and Ireland. Ireland should have topped a group which included Croatia, who had just reached the World Cup semi-finals, and Yugoslavia. Instead, three last minute goals ruined the campaign, all in the Balkan Peninsula. When it happened in Macedonia, Ireland were literally seconds from automatic qualification.
For 2002, it seemed like Mick's last chance. With young players like Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne coming through to compliment experienced campaigners like Roy Keane, Steve Staunton and Niall Quinn, it was a perfect blend. Ireland started off with a draw that should have been a win in Holland.
Jason McAteer's goal that day was indicative of the exciting football this team played, something often forgotten in the modern McCarthy era. Has there ever been another Irish goal that involved double back heels?
This World Cup campaign was obviously one defined by the home match against the same opposition.
A playoff against Iran later and Mick had finally done it. Ireland were going to the World Cup and Mick became the first manager not named Jack Charlton to bring Ireland to a major tournament.
2002 was the most up and down year of Mick's management. It was also his defining year. It was also his last year... for the time being. Ireland went to the World Cup and went out on penalties to Spain, but they did it without Roy Keane. And by the end of the year, after defeats to Russia and Switzerland, it was all over.
And then, in 2018, he was back...
It was to be a short term appointment with a unique succession plan.
Mick's job was to get Ireland to Euro 2020. In the group stages, they fell just short.
But there was to be a playoff. Once last chance for Mick. He ultimately never got that chance.
We look forward to Stephen Kenny and the future of Irish football. Most of us are happy with the decision to move on. But we thank Mick for a lifetime of service for the boys in green.
Photos Credit: Sportsfile