Mick McCarthy has resigned as manager of the Republic of Ireland, two years before the end of his contract.
The 43-year-old, who led his country to the last 16 of the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals last June, hoped to take the team to UEFA EURO 2004™ in Portugal and then resume his career in club management. But following two defeats in the opening two games of the qualifying campaign, and negative reaction from the Irish public, McCarthy - Europe's longest-serving international manager - has decided to step down.
Time to think
At a press conference tonight, McCarthy said he had made the decision "for the good of the team" and that he first thought about it after the defeat by Switzerland last month but wanted to time to think. He added: "
I am sorry to leave, because it was my dream job. My only real regret is that I leave the job, I leave the team and whoever comes in as the new manager, with no points on the board. That will make it harder for the players and the new manager, whoever that might be."
'Not my problem'
When questioned about whether his departure will mean a return to international football for Roy Keane, who McCarthy fell out with before the World Cup, he said: "Thankfully, that's not my problem any more." He added that he wished to stay in management, and even found time for a joke, saying "I don't think many clubs will be looking for a 43-year-old centre-back."
Time on their hands
The Football Association of Ireland will now look to replace the Irish manager and they have time on their hands as the team are not in competitive action again until they visit Georgia next March. Under-21 team manager Don Givens could be asked to take the team for the November friendly in Greece while a replacement is sought.
Names in the frame
Former Irish internationals John Aldridge, Joe Kinnear and David O'Leary have already been mentioned as possible successors but former Real Madrid CF and Wales coach John Toshack is also a candidate.
McCarthy spent four years managing Millwall FC before his appointment as manager of the Republic of Ireland in February 1996. In his first two campaigns as manager he led the Irish team to play-offs for the 1998 World Cup, when Ireland lost to Belgium, and EURO 2000™, when the Irish were beaten on away goals by Turkey, before qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
The controversial departure of team captain Keane two weeks before the World Cup caused major problems for McCarthy and the dispute has dogged Irish football ever since. But it was the defeats away by Russia and at home by Switzerland which caused McCarthy's exit, and after accepting that "my personal situation", and the debate over Keane and speculation about his future, were having a negative effect on the players, McCarthy decided to walk away.
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