FORMER Millwall manager Mick McCarthy took charge of the Republic of Ireland last week – and Neil Harris thinks that could be good news for Aiden O’Brien and Shaun Williams.
McCarthy, 59, returns for a second spell in the role, after leaving Millwall to take over from Jack Charlton in 1996 and qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
The former Ireland international replaced Martin O’Neill, who along with assistant Roy Keane was informed after the 0-0 draw in Denmark as they finished bottom their second-tier Nations League group that they were being relieved of their duties.
McCarthy was instantly the favourite for the post, though there was also support for Stephen Kenny, who was boss of League of Ireland side Dundalk.
The appointment of a new manager will leave some of the squad wondering if and where they fit into his plans, but McCarthy’s Millwall connections should ensure he will be keeping an eye on the Lions’ duo.
O’Neill gave O’Brien – who scored against McCarthy's Ipswich in August 2017 – and Williams their debuts this year. Islington-born O'Brien scored on his first start in a friendly against Poland, after Williams, from Dublin, had netted on his competitive international debut in a 4-1 Nations League defeat to Wales.
However, Williams was was an unused substitute in the next three competitive games when O'Neill bizarrely used Fulham full-back Cyrus Christie in midfield, where he hadn't played since he was 14 years old.
This website asked Williams about that, but he preferred not to comment, perhaps understandably as, at 32, he may have felt he didn't have many more chances to be involved with the squad.
Top of McCarthy’s initial list of priorities was to try to convince West Ham’s Declan Rice to commit to Ireland, with the player deliberating over whether to pledge his future to the country of his birth or of his grandparents’.
But, with 13 of the last Ireland squad drawn from England’s second tier, McCarthy will be a regular at Championship grounds including The Den before the next international break, the start of Euro 2020 qualifying next March.
McCarthy will take charge of that campaign only, and if he guides Ireland there the final tournament, before he hands the reigns over to Kenny, who has been appointed under-21 boss.
McCarthy is joined on the coaching ticket by Robbie Keane, as the Football Association of Ireland hastily threw together their version of a long-term strategic and succession plan.
Harris is keenly interested in the international scene, and he has watched the developments in Ireland. He expects contact with McCarthy over O'Brien and Williams.
"Yes, I’m sure me and Mick will be speaking regarding the boys," Harris said. "They don’t go away again until March so it might be after Christmas.
"Mick’s aware of our players having manged a side against them the last couple of years.
"Am I surprised at the appointment? I wouldn’t say so, I think it’s a very sensible appointment with a long-term view of some good Irish coaches coming through.
"Mick is an old hand, so to speak, with an understanding of international football. He’s very popular among players who have played for him, and maybe it’s at a time when Ireland need to get back on track and need stability. He will give them that.
"I’ve seen the plan for the FAI to think about bringing through a younger coach, with Kenny going in with the under-21s. I’m sure he’ll work very closely with Mick over the next couple of years and he’ll try to gather all the information and knowledge Mick has.
"I think my players will enjoy going away and working under Mick. I’d say it’s a good appointment for Aiden and Shaun."
Image: Millwall FC