International Appearances - Mick McCarthy

Last updated : 08 February 2008 By Neil Andrews
Mick McCarthy
Mick McCarthy
Republic of Ireland
Caps: 19 (of 57)
Goals: 2

It's fair to say that Mick McCarthy experienced something of a stop-start playing career at The Den. Thanks to a string of niggling injuries that seemed to haunt him whenever he stepped foot onto the pitch at Cold Blow Lane, the big Yorkshireman played just 38 times for The Lions in two-and-a-half seasons before taking over from Bruce Rioch as manager - a move that all but ended his player career.

He arrived from Olympique Lyon on loan in the spring of 1990 as Millwall were heading out of the top flight of English football to shore up a defence that was leaking goals. It was always going to be something of a thankless task in an ill-fated battle against relegation but McCarthy was keen to return to England in order to boost his hopes of going to the World Cup with the Republic of Ireland. He was in a race against time to prove his fitness to Eire boss Jack Charlton after undergoing a knee operation earlier in the season and The Lions run-in gave him the necessary media exposure that he would later exploit to full effect as a manager.

McCarthy won his personal battle and was made captain as the Republic of Ireland set off to enjoy their first taste of the World Cup finals but by then he had also done enough to earn a permanent contract and shortly before the end of the season Millwall captured his services for an undisclosed fee, thought to be between £200-345,000.

After returning from the World Cup, where Ireland enjoyed a rather fortutous run to the quarter-finals, the tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender was expected to be a first-choice at the centre of defence, but a pre-season injury put him on the sidelines and he could do nothing but watch as The Lions got off to a flyer - thanks to Teddy Sheringham's now legendary goalscoring blitz - and Steve Wood and Alan McLeary cemented their centre half partnership.

Despite warming the bench, McCarthy was still being considered for Ireland and won two further appearance as Charlton's men kicked off their European Championship qualifying campaign, including his fiftieth cap against England at Lansdowne Road. His international form earned him a recall to The Lions' starting line-up but another injury put him out until February.

However, three games later he was out again - this time with a knee ligament injury - which all but ended his playing career. He did return, but by then a new-look Millwall side were struggling under Rioch and after shipping six goals twice in quick succession, the manager was sacked. McCarthy replaced him and the rest, as they say is history - although the jury will probably always be out on his managerial career at The Den.