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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 06:40 GMT
McCarthy's finest hour
Mick McCarthy guided Ireland to the 2002 World Cup finals
McCarthy enjoyed a good World Cup this summer

Before the European Championship qualifiers kicked-off, the Republic of Ireland stood proudly at 13th place in Fifa's world rankings.

It was a point which seemed to have escaped manager Mick McCarthy's many critics.

They preferred to credit the players, especially Roy Keane, for the Republic's rise.

So McCarthy gave everyone a very public reminder.

It came just a few days before Ireland's important European Championship qualifier against Switzerland in Dublin.

Peter Reid had been sacked as manager of Sunderland and McCarthy found himself being touted in the media as a possible successor at the Stadium of Light.

  Mick McCarthy's career
1959: Born in Barnsley
1977-1991: Central defender for Barnsley, Man City, Celtic, and Republic of Ireland
1991: Takes over as Millwall player manager
1996: Replaces Jack Charlton as Republic of Ireland boss
2002: Agrees deal with FAI to step down after six years in charge

Interestingly, McCarthy did not dismiss the possibility out of hand.

Instead, he said he was flattered and that the fact he was being linked with such a high-profile job was recognition of the fine job he had done.

McCarthy went on to helpfully point out that he had guided the Republic from 50-something to 13 in the Fifa rankings.

For a nation the size of Ireland, it was a fine achievement, no matter who deserved most of the credit.

And it came about because the Republic had reached the World Cup finals where they got through to the last 16.

Getting to the finals in the Korea and Japan must go down as McCarthy's finest hour as Irish boss.

Jack Charlton led the Republic of Ireland to two World Cup fnals
McCarthy took over from Jack Charlton

Up to that point, the former Millwall manager was in danger of going down as the 'nearly man'.

Under McCarthy, the Republic nearly qualified for the 1998 World Cup in France but lost in a play-off to Belgium.

Then they nearly qualified for Euro 2000, again failing in a play-off against Turkey, this time on an away goal.

It seemed the luck of the Irish had not rubbed off on Barnsley-born McCarthy.

As Jack Charlton's 'Captain Fantastic', McCarthy earned 57 caps for Ireland.

He was appointed manager early in 1996, faced with the challenge of trying to follow the successful Charlton.

McCarthy did not enjoy a good start, losing five and drawing the other in his first six matches in charge.

But post-Charlton Ireland were a team in transition.

McCarthy was given time and, after those two play-off agonies, the Republic eventually regained their place at the top table.

They qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals, ahead of the mighty Holland.

It is widely accepted that Roy Keane was the player who, more than any other, got McCarthy's man to Korea and Japan. He made the team tick.

The fact that they could not hold their fragile working relationship together for the finals is a matter of great regret among Irish football fans.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former Ireland defender Paul McGrath
"It's disappointing the way things have worked out"
FAI's Brendan Menton
"Mick will be a hard act to follow"
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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Links to more Republic of Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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