Today is the twentieth anniversary of Mick McCarthy's appointment as Irish manager, and the thirtieth anniversary of Jack Charlton's unveiling for the same job. We will return to the former in a moment, but for reasons that will soon become clear in a moment, it is worth dwelling on Charlton's appointment.
The handing of the job to Charlton was mired in well-documented controversy. Initially, a three-man shortlist was drawn up, consisting of Charlton along with former managers John Giles and Liam Tuohy, only for the name of Liverpool legend Bob Paisley - who had previously been considered and dropped - to be reintroduced at the 11th hour. The candidate to reach ten votes from the 19 man FAI Council would become manager.
In the first round of voting, Paisley received nine votes, with Giles and Tuohy eliminated. Remarkably, those who had supported Tuohy and Giles all voted for Charlton in the second round, with one of Paisley's supporters in the first round switching allegiance, meaning Charlton was appointed following a final count of 10 to 8 (the 19th man, the president, had a casting vote).
There was much criticism of the decision: the anger stemming from the fact the FAI had turned down the opportunity to work with their original first choice in Paisley, given that he was one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, remaining to this day the only manager to have won three European Cups.
In the end, Charlton became the most successful Irish manager of all time, but it has not prevented us pondering how different things would have been had we appointed Paisley.
Unbeknownst to us until now, there is a similar 'what if' question to wonder about Charlton's successor. Phillip Quinn of the Irish Daily Mail was on Newstalk's Off The Ball
Phillip Quinn of the Irish Daily Mail was on Newstalk's Off The Ball this evening discussing the appointment of Charlton and revealed that the choice of Charlton's successor also ended in the FAI not appointing their first choice:
There's a story there, although it wasn't much written at the time. Mick McCarthy got the job and he wasn't supposed to get it. It was another classic example of the FAI having another man in place: Kevin Moran.
Kevin Moran was to get the job. Moran came into the scene late - and he may not go on the record about it - but other journalists know it was a story. Louis Kilcoyne [the then FAI president] came out and said after McCarthy was appointed 'Well Mick, you weren't the man we wanted, but I wish you good luck'.
The FAI had left themselves wide open: six people had a say which is the wrong number. There was a selection panel and there were officers. It was going to be 3-3, and the president [Kilcoyne] woukld have the casting vote, and he was going for Moran.
But, of the six people who were to vote, one didn't turn up. It was 3-2 to McCarthy, so the president didn't have a vote and McCarthy was in.
It is a story we were not aware of until now, and such is the condition of a football fan, we began wondering 'what if?' Moran got the job ahead of McCarthy. Would there have been a Saipan? Would we have got to the World Cup at all?
A fruitless train of thought, but one we are doomed to pursue nonetheless.
You can listen back to the entire interview with Phillip Quinn on the Newstalk website here.
See Also: Mick McCarthy Will Never Forget Brian Clough's Insults Towards Him During Euro '88