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It's no time for a scrap

Question of Mick or Stephen for delayed Euros not worth it

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UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Mick McCarthy may or may not be in charge of Ireland if they qualify for the Euros. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Mick McCarthy may or may not be in charge of Ireland if they qualify for the Euros. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Mick McCarthy may or may not be in charge of Ireland if they qualify for the Euros. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

McCarthy or Kenny? That's the question that most of the Irish football public are asking in the aftermath of the decision to push Euro 2020 back to Euro 2021.

Never mind the impact of rescheduling a tournament that was supposed to generate serious money for our economy.

Never mind the uncertainty for the casual employees that had been hired to cope with the FAI's host status.

Never mind the reality that the Covid-19 stoppage has clubs and players in this country wondering if they will be able to pay their bills.

Oh yes, and never mind the fact that Ireland actually haven't qualified for the tournament and need to come through two away games in June to do so.

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Stephen Kenny is pictured during a press conference as Ireland U21 manager. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny is pictured during a press conference as Ireland U21 manager. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Stephen Kenny is pictured during a press conference as Ireland U21 manager. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

That's if they take place, with the 'subject to review' line in the UEFA statement possibly looking like the most significant one.

In that context, Niall Quinn was correct to basically kick the can down the road in his interview with FAI TV - although he is certain to be pressed on it again when he next conducts a proper press briefing.

But there's little to be gained for officialdom by speculating at this juncture.

Naturally, the manager equation is the takeaway from a story which has implications which go beyond the knock-on effect for Ireland's unique succession plan.

Public interest is public interest, of course. In these uncertain times, we need things to debate and this might get tricky for the FAI, albeit with the caveat that missing out on the tournament would present a larger headache.

But at a time where we are looking for a mature response from citizens to a period of difficulty, the football community has to follow the lead.

A health crisis is not a window for opportunism. Nor should it be the catalyst for a weird kind of civil war.

There has always been some FAI discomfort with the succession plan, no matter what spin McCarthy or Kenny put on it. To be fair, it hasn't been fuelled by the managers themselves.

But it is known that there are people close to McCarthy who always harboured the hope that his time in the job would be extended. Kenny's success with the U21 team scuppered that. And the incoming boss has his eyes open to where doubts exist.

It's not too difficult to see where dividing lines may fall. Several members of McCarthy's 2002 World Cup team are sceptical of the view that Kenny is suddenly going to click his fingers and transform the personality of the national side when he is appointed. There is a sensitivity to any portrayal of the incumbent as yesterday's man.

Kenny can't control the expectations that are placed on him, but he will do things his way when the time comes.

Central to that will be bringing staff on board that he trusts, which is why it's anticipated that Keith Andrews and other members of the U21 backroom will make the leap when he does.

They will bring serious goodwill with them, yet it would be a slight risk to jeopardise that by getting stuck into a draining battle created by an unprecedented turn of events.

Kenny's contract begins in August 2020 and it's understood he believes that will be the case no matter what.

The playoffs being fixed for the summer make things a little more straightforward for the FAI. For now, anyway.

Memorable

If they take place and McCarthy delivers a pair of memorable away days, the optics of the manager then being asked to leave would be challenging, although it must be noted that Denmark's Age Hareide will be departing his job as scheduled due to the new 2021 date.

Legal eagles would likely advise that Kenny should assume control when his contract states, but sections of the court of public opinion will argue to the contrary.

Certainly, it would be easy to see momentum building up that could make life uncomfortable for Kenny and erode some of the patience that will be required when the ex-Dundalk manager takes the reins.

Diplomatically, the easiest solution would be a successful playoff series for Ireland and then McCarthy using that success to secure a job for the start of the next English season, whenever that may be.

But that would also mean waving goodbye to the job he was hired to do; bringing Ireland to a European Championships in Dublin.

That would be tough, but the financial realities have to be taken into the equation here too. It is known that McCarthy will be receiving a €1m handshake when he departs, a consequence of how the Kenny aspect of the package was finalised at the last minute by Delaney.

He's entitled to be paid the deal that was agreed, but it has stirred anger in cash-strapped areas of the sport.

McCarthy is commanding a bigger wage than his replacement and keeping him on for longer would have budgetary consequences.

Granted, if Ireland secure the €12m or so from qualifying for the Euros, the FAI would doubtless say that it's worth it.

But if the playoffs are kicked on beyond June due to coronavirus, then the argument for keeping McCarthy on for a rescheduled series of September games - for example - loses weight.

It's not as if McCarthy brought Ireland to the playoffs. The UEFA Nations League ranking created by Martin O'Neill did.

Yet it would be a shame if any argument was reduced to those jabs. There should be a concerted effort to avoid any kind of scraps when the bigger picture is more important.