They called it the ‘Irish Football Stakeholder Forum’ but really last Friday’s gathering at the Mansion House was a cry for help.
It was the equivalent of the bit in Jaws where the panicked Amity townspeople hold a meeting to decide what to do about the shark, except in this case, the shark has already eaten everyone, filed its expenses claim, and gone off on gardening leave.
There was lots of talk about governance, frameworks, structures and pathways, but really, Irish football just wants a hero to save the day.
Some people thought it was going to be Niall Quinn, because he is big, likeable, and seems pretty clean-cut. It’s possible to imagine him looking good in a cape.
But Niall’s superpower (aside from flicking balls on to nimble co-strikers, which he doesn’t get to use much these days to be fair) is in bringing people together, acting as a conduit for the right people to get into the right rooms.
He managed it at Sunderland with the Drumaville consortium, and hell, he even managed to get himself into a room with Roy Keane.
Quinn’s contribution to the forum was criticised by some for lacking details; the desire for a man-with-a-plan is understandable, but maybe it’s a bit early to call in Dermot Bannon to install poured concrete worktops and picture windows when Irish football is still surveying the wreckage.
We are in the bewildered post-revolutionary days when the dictator has been deposed and nobody really knows who’s in charge, and the danger is that we cling to the next strongman who comes along promising to make things okay again.
Noel Mooney’s appointment as interim-executive-special-fixer-upper-guy has been viewed with scepticism given his entanglement with the previous regime.
This might be unfair on Mooney, who may have the reforming intentions to be the Gorbachev of Abbotstown; but the perception of him as a KGB-trained Putin figure bent on winding the clock back to Soviet glories seems to be out there.
Fixing this situation is likely to involve lots of good people quietly doing boring-but-necessary things and being given the time and power to do so, rather than the arrival on the scene of a caped crusader.
But that doesn’t mean Irish football doesn’t need a hero. We could really do with one right now, actually, some beacon of light in the sky.
Step forward Yorkshire Man.
Mick McCarthy’s special powers are the traditional values of his home place: integrity, straight-talking, not suffering fools gladly, that great slab of a voice hewn from the Dales.
In fact, despite the strength of his Irish roots, Mick could not be more Yorkshire were he to arrive for training in a bath on wheels with Compo and Clegg in tow.
We need that right now — the straight talking especially. “I hated every minute of it, it was horrible,” he said after the victory in Gibraltar, articulating exactly how Ireland fans feel after 95% of the team’s matches.
If part of the decontamination job ahead of the FAI (or whatever reconstituted I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-the-FAI organism emerges from all this) is to rebuild trust with the public, then Mick’s bullshit allergy is definitely a plus.
This directness is not universally popular in football right now. McCarthy’s previous job came to an end because Ipswich fans grew bored of his style of football, which, though functional, kept the club competitive in the Championship throughout his tenure.
But fans want dreams of rainbows and unicorns, not to be confronted with the reality of their situation.
After a 2-2 draw with Leeds in 2014, a reporter suggested “some people may see that as two points dropped.”
“Some people can fuck off,” replied McCarthy, coining what essentially became the campaign slogan for his Ipswich stewardship.
We, on the other hand, need the man in charge to tell it like it is. We don’t need a visionary like Guardiola or a spiritualist like Pochettino.
We don’t need someone to tell us we’re going to win the World Cup. We’re not stupid. Neither do we need someone telling us the players are crap.
We’ve had that and, surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to work. Get them organised and get them playing, that’ll do.
We could do with someone telling it straight about the financial situation as well, and about the political machinations likely to unfold within Irish football’s great power vacuum.
Mick McCarthy can’t do anything about all that, but no harm to have an honest man as the public figurehead when you’re trying to shine a light in dark places.
One of Yorkshire Man’s less heralded powers is a sensitivity that gets lost amid his stonier virtues. People who have worked with him speak really highly of him, on a personal level.
They say he is a decent man. They like him. Well, with one notable exception.
Isn’t it funny that the man who was at the centre of Irish football’s greatest ever conflagration is back for its second-greatest ever conflagration, but this time as sympathetic nursemaid rather than blood-stained protagonist?
The current problems run deeper than can be addressed by reaching Euro 2020, but the money is desperately needed, equally so the attendant positive vibes.
McCarthy can’t drain the swamp, but he can make it smell a bit sweeter.
Mick knows there’s a time limit on his welcome and that may even begin counting down if he doesn’t bring a result back from Copenhagen.
But what a heroic ending it would be if he swished his cape and flew off into the sunset in 13 months’ time with Irish football having at least cleared the debris after the recent Godzilla attack.
“It’s up to me to get positive results and get people smiling again,” he said in typically succinct style before his first games in March.
Step aside, Yorkshire Man is here.
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