It was still Kenny’s long-term plan to follow McCarthy, but he was expected to have the opportunity to complete the Euro 2020 campaign; now he will not have that chance because Ireland’s playoffs against Slovakia, which were originally scheduled for March, have been postponed until September. McCarthy’s contract was set to expire on July 31, and the Football Association of Ireland decided not to extend it, settling instead for the plan to allow Kenny to take over. McCarthy and his assistant, Terry Connor, were informed of the decision on Saturday.
FAI Acting Director General Gary Owens said, “This has been a difficult situation for the Association – and for Mick and Stephen in particular – following the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on the soccer calendar. I would like to thank the two men for their professionalism and understanding in their dealings with the Association in these unprecedented circumstances.
“These are exceptional moments in Irish life and Mick took them into account by agreeing to leave the post earlier. On behalf of the FAI, I would like to express our gratitude to Mick for his service and commitment to our national team throughout his career and in particular during his second visit as Irish manager.
“Stephen will now start planning for the play-offs against Slovakia and everyone at the FAI wishes him good luck in our attempt to qualify for Euro 2020. Football will be back and we have so much to wait for now in the fall with the Nations League and the Euro 2020 qualifiers, followed by the World Cup qualifiers in early 2021. “
McCarthy’s second reign lasted 10 games and ended with October’s 2-0 loss to Switzerland, the same opponents who, coincidentally, defeated Ireland in November 2002 to complete their first stint. The October loss was Ireland’s only loss in its last qualifying campaign, in which it was difficult to beat but struggled to score. They finished third in their group behind Switzerland and Denmark, with a total of seven goals in eight games attesting to their creativity problems.
Kenny, who has had huge success in the Irish League with Dundalk and Bohemians, has a reputation for playing enterprising football. He guided the country’s U21s to the top of their Euro 2021 qualifying group, over opponents like Italy and Sweden.