| 5.5°C Dublin

Ronnie Whelan: McCarthy should be making his own calls on fitness


James McCarthy has a tight hamstring

James McCarthy has a tight hamstring

James McCarthy has a tight hamstring

AMAZING! That's the only word I can use to describe Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane's decision to go public on the background to James McCarthy's Glasgow sick note.

Even more remarkable is what they actually said. Trace this back to Celtic Park last Thursday evening when O'Neill stated clearly that the latest scan on McCarthy had shown nothing.

Move forward to the newspapers yesterday morning and O'Neill's claim that if Friday night's game had been a club fixture, McCarthy would have played.

Read Keane's comments in which he clearly points the finger at undue influence from the Everton physio team when McCarthy is away on international duty and the fact that every time a squad is selected, an asterisk must be placed beside one or other of Everton's four Irishmen.

And finally focus on the fact that Keane has confirmed that the decision on McCarthy's involvement or otherwise in the Scotland game came down to a choice by the player himself in the end.

For me, that's the key point. When you strip away the noise on both sides of this, McCarthy, for reasons only he knows, decided he could not play in Celtic Park when Ireland badly needed him.

I don't know the lad and it would be wrong to assign motivations to him without knowing the full story.

But it is very. very unusual for an international manager or any kind of manager to break the dressing room omerta and say so clearly that he believed McCarthy could have risked it against Scotland.

And even more unusual for his No. 2 to follow it up by pointing the finger at Everton and claiming that they were peppering McCarthy with phone calls while he was away with Ireland.

That is bang out of order. When you go away with an international team, you leave your club behind and as Keane pointed out, all players have injuries all the time and still play football. I'd say for every international call-up I got, there was a handy excuse if I wanted one.


I'll put my hands up. I cried off games I could have played in but they were friendlies in Poland in November and I took the opportunity instead to let niggling injuries subside.

And managers were not above trying to give you an out-ball. I remember travelling back from a game with an international break in front of us and Kenny Dalglish was in Steve McMahon's ear about sitting out an England friendly.

Steve's answer was short and sharp: "I suppose that's how you got to over 100 caps then?"

Nothing was said again and nothing was ever said when the game was a qualifier.

I never once missed one that I was fit enough to play in. In fact I was a right pain in the backside for Jack Charlton because I kept haunting him to play me in the big games.

That's what puzzled me about all of this. I'm not suggesting for a second that McCarthy feigned an injury to get out of playing against Scotland but from what Keane said, it is very obvious that his club told him he wasn't playing and that is just unacceptable.

McCarthy may have felt something in his hamstring or he may not want to upset Roberto Martinez who he goes back a long way with but either way, it is simply not right that Everton Football Club should wield such influence over a player.

It would be easy to say that McCarthy should simply stand up and be counted and the next time his club tries to make things difficult for him, he should shout stop.


It's not as if he doesn't hold the cards. He is now Everton's hottest property and if any of the transfer gossip is to be believed, he will soon reach a point where he must make a call on whether he wants to stay at Goodison Park or spread his wings.

There will be no shortage of offers and it would seem to me that McCarthy holds a lot of power in this situation if he chose to exercise it.

On this occasion he didn't and there is no doubt that Ireland suffered as a result against Scotland. We needed James McCarthy in that game.

I wonder what the other players feel about all of this. I wonder if you asked Glenn Whelan what answer you would get?

It must have been difficult for McCarthy to walk around the hotel all week with all these things bubbling in his mind and the rest of the players would not be human if they didn't allow just a niggle of doubt about him to creep into their minds.

I know from my own time that you forge the strongest bounds when you share difficulties and overcome them and Ireland needed McCarthy's quality on the ball.

Our midfield didn't really show up against Scotland and our performance was ill-disciplined and poor across the pitch.

There were a few exceptions like Richard Keogh and Jon Walters who tried their best but I never really believed we would get a point once Shaun Maloney's sublime goal gave Scotland a crucial edge.

McCarthy is very important to Ireland's future but only if he turns up and only if he wants to play when he does. I accept that he is probably under enormous pressure, but so what? That's the business he's in. Deal with it.