Thursday 21 November 2019

Young players can try change my mind in camp

McCarthy to mix work and rest as young guns look to impress

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at The Campus, Quinta do Lago in Faro, Portugal
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at The Campus, Quinta do Lago in Faro, Portugal
Luca Connell in action for the Republic of Ireland during the UEFA U17 Championship Final against Denmark last year

The sun is shining, his squad are in relatively good health, and he's far, far away from the politics and intrigue at FAI HQ.

No wonder Mick McCarthy is smiling as he beds in for a week-long training camp in Portugal.

He even mentions the f-word. Not the bad f-word, as Mrs Doyle might say but another one.

"It will be good fun, I think," he says as he looks ahead to a week with his players in the Algarve, promising to mix up the training with leisure activities.

Every adult foreign male in this region seems incapable of going out without wearing golf gear, the game infecting the Algarve like knotweed, so a round of golf for McCarthy's squad and staff this week is on the cards.

A proposed meet-and-greet barbecue with the travelling Irish media is, thankfully, off the agenda (because the last one of those, in some island in 2002, went so well) but the players will get a chance to down tools and also let their hair down at some stage.

McCarthy is this week trying to get the balance right between work, rest and play, aware that the long lead-in to the Euro 2012 finals, where the squad feel that them being overworked and bored led to the disastrous displays in Poland in the tournament, so the current manager feels that cabin fever won't be an issue.

"I thought long and hard about it and we'll make sure that we're not all work and no play," he say, reflecting on his own international debut in 1984 when he skipped best man duties at his brother's wedding to play for Ireland. In a friendly. Against Poland.

"I got asked to come in and missed my brother's wedding. I phoned my missus up, when I finally got hold of her, and said I'm going to play football in the summer. I don't get it," he says of the notion that international football is an annoyance.

"And I think most of the lads will be the same. Some of them are not playing, but even then I remember training with lads who never really got games but turned up because they enjoyed turning up and wanted to be with their pals, their peers and be involved in the squad and have a chance of playing.

"I've been doing it a long time and I know full well if you have them trapped in the hotel, never going out and never doing anything, that's going to cause a problem because it would have caused me a problem.

"I have a really great ally in Robbie (Keane), who has been involved in all of those camps and experienced that. That's real good info for me to pick his brains on that. He's quite happy to share that and chirp up and tell me, he would be more than happy to say so.

"You can only train a couple of times a week. You can't do that all of the time. We'll be training twice today and tomorrow, Friday off and the back at it on Saturday. It will be mixed up. It will be good fun. I think."

Hard to imagine McCarthy as as a figure of fun but there we are, the Ireland manager looking tanned and relaxed as he spoke to the media at the team's training camp in Portugal yesterday, FAI politics a long way away, though he has had a "brief" chat with the new man at the helm, Noel Mooney.

But there is work to be done as well as McCarthy casts his eye over his squad ahead of those games next month, Denmark away first up for an Ireland side who have suffered at the hands of the Danes over the last 18 months.

McCarthy has shown in his squad selections that he's not afraid to make big calls, the most significant change evident in the fact that Cyrus Christie, a favoured son of Martin O'Neill, can't get into the team while Glenn Whelan, who was nudged into retirement by an unconvinced O'Neill, is back and could be central to plans over the next two games.

He will look at players over the next week, all eyes on teenager Luca Connell to see how he copes, and hope to see someone break from the group to emerge as a real talent.

"We have two games back to back, again, and that will affect them physically and Denmark will be a completely different type of game, of course to the ones that we have had, I would imagine," McCarthy says.

"It's up to them. I look back to when I played, you would come in to train and try to as well as your possibly could and make sure that you are in the manager's face.

"All you can do is come here and impress. And that's what some of them did the last time.

"Josh Cullen came in and impressed everybody, Mark Travers came in and impressed everybody. Then he got man of the match for Bournemouth .

"So just come and train as best as you possibly can and see if you can change my mind. That's not to change my mind on them but in the way that they could push their way into the team."

Connell is one that McCarthy is keen to work with, having only seen clips and read reports to date. The Bolton player - and he won't be at Bolton much longer as the Premier League beckons - is, technically, only in the squad for training this week and will drop out, possibly to the U21s, when rival midfielders Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Josh Cullen have finished club duties, but Connell has the chance to wow McCarthy.

"He can handle the ball. The reports of him have been very good," he says. "It's much better to see the younger players coming in. If and when Conor and Glenn come in and if Jeff (Hendrick) is fit, they wil be hard pressed to shut any of them out of the team.

"But Josh Cullen has pushed any everybody has been impressed. And if Luca can do the same then it would be good for him, good for me and good for the team."

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