Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has left his role ahead of schedule, making way for Stephen Kenny to take over the job.
McCarthy, a former manager of Sunderland and Wolves, was hired by the FAI in 2018 to take charge of the team for the Euro 2020 campaign, with Kenny appointed as under-21 manager with a view to succeeding him in the senior job.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent postponement of both Ireland’s play-off with Slovakia and the Euro 2020 tournament itself, however, the FAI were put in an awkward position with this succession plan.
With the playoffs put back to September at the earliest, there was confusion over which manager would be in charge and whether McCarthy would have a legal claim to remaining in charge for the Euros.
Crucially, McCarthy’s contract was due to end on 31 July 2020, which gave the association the legal premise to part ways now. While it is harsh on McCarthy to not finish out the campaign, this was logistically the easiest path forward for the association.
A statement from interim CEO Gary Owens on the FAI website said: “This has been a difficult situation for the Association – and for Mick and Stephen in particular – in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on the football calendar.
“On behalf of President Gerry McAnaney, the Board of the FAI and myself, I want to thank both men for their professionalism and their understanding in their dealings with the Association in these unprecedented circumstances. These are exceptional times in Irish life and Mick has taken that into account in agreeing to vacate the post early.
“On behalf of the FAI, I wish to express our gratitude to Mick for his service and commitment to our national team throughout his career and particularly in his second spell as Ireland manager. We wish Mick and his staff well and we thank them all for their hard work in this European Championship campaign to date.
“Stephen will now begin his planning for the play-off against Slovakia and everyone at the FAI wishes him well in our bid to qualify for Euro 2020. Football will be back and we have so much to look forward to now in the autumn with the Nations League and the UEFA EURO 2020 play-off, followed by the World Cup qualifiers in early 2021.”