Republic of Ireland: McCarthy 'hugely disappointed' but 'fully understands decision'

Mick McCarthy
McCarthy leaves after 17 months in charge of the Republic of Ireland

Mick McCarthy says being denied the chance to potentially lead the Republic of Ireland to a European Championship finals is "hugely disappointing" but he "fully understands" the decision.

McCarthy was replaced by Stephen Kenny with immediate effect on Saturday following the postponement of the Republic's Euro play-off with Slovakia.

Kenny had been due to succeed McCarthy in August, but Uefa's decision to push Euro 2020 to 2021 led the FAI into bringing forward their Under-21 boss's promotion to manage the senior team.

"That's hugely disappointing, but I fully understand it," McCarthy told FAI TV.

"Age Hareide, the Denmark coach, is the same. He's leaving now because his successor (Kasper Hjulmand) was already picked to take over.

"It's disappointing that I can't finish it off, but I think we had a really good campaign.

"The play-offs have been pushed back and I fully understand it. Stephen had been contracted to take over in August and good luck to him - he'll get the chance to qualify."

McCarthy, who led the Republic to the 2002 World Cup during his first spell in charge, was appointed as Martin O'Neill's successor in November 2018.

The former Sunderland manager guided the Republic to third in Euro 2020 qualifying Group D, picking up only two points from their last four qualifiers to miss out on second place to Denmark.

'I've loved being back'

While he was unable to secure automatic qualification, McCarthy - who insisted he will "absolutely" be back in football - says his second stint as Republic boss was "brilliant".

"It gradually got better," McCarthy said of the performances.

"I look back at the Gibraltar game, the first game in, an Astroturf pitch, blowing a gale and an airplane taking off at eight o'clock, when we just scraped through.

"But we did scrape through and I said at the time that the only thing that mattered was the result. We only lost one out of 10, and that was in Switzerland, and they're the best team in the group.

"It's been brilliant - I've loved being back. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and it's been an absolute pleasure and an honour to do the job again.

"And I think I'm leaving Stephen with a healthy balance to be quite honest. I support the decision that has been made."