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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 15:55 GMT
Losing the battle of wills
Mick McCarthy was heavily criticised in the Irish newspapers after the Republic lost to Switzerland in a Euro 2004 qualifier
McCarthy was under pressure after losing to Switzerland

Mick McCarthy's infamous bust-up with Roy Keane was the beginning of the end for the Republic of Ireland manager.

The pair had never enjoyed a good working relationship and things came to an incredible head at a team meeting in Saipan where the Republic were spending their final week before travelling to the World Cup.

What was said or not said has been the subject of many articles and several books ever since.

At the time, Keane was sent home, his World Cup over before it had even started.

Skipper Roy Keane was sent home before the World Cup kicked-off
Roy Keane refused to play under McCarthy again

But the national captain is the biggest figure in Irish football, and the fall-out simply refused to go away.

McCarthy was given a rough ride by many fans and journalists, happier to sacrifice their successful manager than see Keane remain in international exile.

No matter what McCarthy did, he could not win.

As it happened, Ireland had a good World Cup without Roy Keane.

They came through a group which contained Germany and the African champions Cameroon to qualify for a last-16 place.

Heroic performance

That pitched them against Spain, one of the favourites to win the competition.

Once again, Ireland came from behind to draw 1-1. They came close to going through to the quarter-finals, only losing agonisingly on penalties.

But despite the heroic performance, the critics were lining up with only one target in mind.

McCarthy's tactical awareness was called into question, not least by Keane himself.

Some felt McCarthy would have been wise to resign after the relatively successful World Cup.

Ireland's Matt Holand reacts to his penalty miss against Spain the the last 16 of the World Cup
Ireland lost to Spain on penalties

But the prospects for Irish international football looked good.

Steve Staunton and Niall Quinn had retired - but several young stars were emerging.

The likes of Damien Duff, Steven Reid, Colin Healy and Clinton Morrison suggested the Republic could mount a serious challenge at the Euro 2004 finals.

The only problem is - they have to get there first.

Losing the opening qualifier away to Russia was bad enough, but defeat at home to Switzerland in the next game was calamitous.

The anti-McCarthyites, as the manager labelled them in his post-World Cup book, had a field day, especially with Keane waiting in the wings to return under a new manager.

McCarthy spoke of his 'brassneck' and 'tough skin', but even he began to realise all the negative press was dragging the team down.

He knew his time was eventually up.

Short of winning the World Cup and the European Championships, there was no way he was ever going to win his critics round.

Lyle Jackson was BBC Sport Online's man with the Republic of Ireland at the World Cup.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
"McCarthy's departure became inevitable"
Roy Keane's biographer Eamon Dunphy
"The Irish fans were unhappy"
FAI's Brendan Menton
"Mick will be a hard act to follow"
 VOTE RESULTS
Was Mick McCarthy right to quit?

Yes
 52.23% 

No
 47.77% 

13282 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Mick McCarthy resigns as coach of the Republic of Ireland

Ireland in limbo

Analysis

Photo gallery

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Ireland's World Cup

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