Much of the speculation this week in the build-up to Ireland against Wales was surrounded on one player and one player only. It was also a player who didn’t even take part in Ireland’s 3-0 victory, nor did he make the trip to Dublin – James McCarthy.
Today, however, McCarthy featured for Wigan in their 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield, playing all 90 minutes of the game. Is the youngster fast becoming the next Andy Reid or Stephen Ireland facing into to international exile or, worse still, will he change his allegiances to the country of his birth?
Speculation has been rife all week that the promising 20 year-old midfielder is considering switching alliances to Scotland – as he was born in Glasgow – though he qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather – after he withdrew from the Ireland squad due to injury earlier in the week. His manager, Roberto Martinez has admitted that McCarthy has “a very, very deep” decision to make about his international future.
From an Irish point of view, it would be a great shame to lose a player of McCarthy’s quality, because he is one of the more promising players that Ireland will be looking towards in the future, along with Ciaran Clark and Seamus Coleman, both of whom, unlike McCarthy, made their Ireland debuts during the week.
It also has to be said, Trapattoni has handled the whole situation very badly, especially for somebody who has been in the game as long as he has. Instead of dealing with and defusing the situation privately, he created a storm in a tea-cup which has been blown out of all proportions in the Irish press. If McCarthy is said to be having doubts about representing Ireland, then that is something for the management to deal with. Not as a soap-opera being played out on the back pages of newspapers. Perhaps Trapattoni holds a grudge with McCarthy, a la Andy Reid? After all, he did withdraw at short notice from last summer’s games against Paraguay and Algeria citing fatigue.
McCarthy being ruled out of the Wales game midweek could simply be a question of club vs. country – Roberto Martinez confirmed during the week that: “James has had four games in 12 days. He could not finish the 90 minutes in the last game.” Before going on to say, “We sent a report to the Republic medical staff and I spoke with Mr Trapattoni. Everything is quite clear. He could not be involved.”
Wigan, obviously want to protect their player, and as they are paying his wages, they are well within their right to do so. McCarthy has been key for them this season – since joining the club he has scored four goals in 32 games.
On a positive note, Trapattoni has already confirmed that McCarthy will be in the next Ireland squad for the game against Macedonia on March 26th and that there would be “no need” to watch the youngster over the next couple of weeks.
Should McCarthy feature in that game against Macedonia, then it will silence all the rumours surrounding his international eligibility. Under the present rules, his appearances for Irish youth teams or the friendly against Brazil do not tie him to Ireland.
Hopefully, he isn’t forced to pull out, again…