Even if Whelan finds a new club, Molumby must be in the mix
Will Mick be true to his word, even for a favourite like Whelan?
After Hearts announced that his association with the club has ended by "mutual agreement" after just four months, Glenn Whelan now doesn't have a club. If Mick McCarthy is honest with himself and how he has conducted his Irish team selections in his time as manager, Whelan now cannot start against Slovakia if he doesn't find a club in the next few weeks. Even if he does get picked up, and is given minutes on the pitch, McCarthy needs to accept that there are other viable options in that Irish midfield. Even if that means hurting Stephen Kenny's u21 side.
Ireland's Glenn Whelan has left Hearts by "mutual agreement" after just four months in Scotland.
Will Mick McCarthy still play him against Slovakia if he doesn't have a club? pic.twitter.com/gEvn6UXaZ4
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 7, 2020
Mick McCarthy's appointment as the manager of the Irish senior team was always a strange arrangement. He was tasked to take Ireland to Euro 2020, a tournament which Dublin will be one of a number of host cities, and then hand the reins over to Stephen Kenny. In this purgatorial time, Kenny would take over an exciting u21 team, and perhaps ready a number of the next generation for his ascension to the throne.
The senior team struggled through their qualification campaign, no matter what way the results are glossed, that is the simple fact. Glass half-full: Ireland lost only one game, against the top seeds away from home. They went into the final game, at home, with their fate in their own hands. They had the best defensive record of anyone in the group. Glass half-empty: outside of beating Gibraltar twice in two gimme fixtures, Mick's side only won one game. They scored as many goals as Georgia. They needed three late goals to salvage three of their four draws.
Throughout the dreary campaign of the Senior team, Kenny's u21s offered more than a glimmer of hope in the crystal ball of Irish football. Yes, he has the calibre of players in Adam Idah, Troy Parrott, Michael Obafemi, Caoimhín Kelleher, Jayson Molumby, Conor Coventry, Aaron Connolly among a host of others. But what has been arguably more impressive is the style of football employed by Kenny, even when a number of those players mentioned above have been absent either through injury or Senior call-ups. The issue has arisen in the fact that those Senior nods have been all too rare.
Mick has offered two main excuses for the dearth of promotions from the talented u21 squad; perceived lack of game-time and an unwillingness to disassemble the u21 side for Senior gain. Speaking before the Bulgaria friendly in September, McCarthy was typically bullish when asked if the likes of Connolly would be called up;
"Have they got a qualifier tomorrow? Then why on earth would I call them in? I just think that would be wrong of me. The 21s want to qualify for a competition... I'm not sure that if I play them in a friendly against Bulgaria, it will tell me that they can compete in a game against Georgia away or Switzerland away or Denmark at home."
It transpired that Connolly's emergence for Brighton made it impossible for McCarthy to call the young Irishman up, and he featured off the bench against Georgia before starting against Switzerland a few days later. But McCarthy has always made it clear that game time, at any level, is the most important thing to him. Speaking back in July about James McCarthy and a potential move to Crystal Palace, the Irish manager was unequivocal in what he valued;
“I’d like to see him playing in September... it doesn’t matter, he can go and sign for whoever he wants. He can sign for Oxford and if he’s in the team he has a better chance than if he’s on the bench at Crystal Palace."
The clamour for the inclusion of the likes of Parrott, Connolly, Obafemi and Idah are understandable considering the lack of goals and even threat in the current Irish Senior team. Ireland's primary threat seems to be Shane Duffy, which sums up the striking problem in McCarthy's team. But one man who needs to be involved, partifcularly considering today's developments for Whelan, is Jayson Molumby.
— BHAFC Vines (@BHAFC_Vines) December 30, 2019
On loan from Brighton to Millwall in the Championship, Molumby has been a mainstay in their midfield all season. 18 appearances, 17 from the start, as the London club sit just one point outside the playoff places. He has been a commanding influence in the centre of the park for both club and country, and offers a genuine threat going forward. He has a passing accuracy of 86.4%, the second-highest of any u21 player in the league, and has drawn praise from McCarthy in the past, notably after the u21's win over Armenia in September;
"I was extremely impressed, certainly by Connolly – I thought he was the pick of the bunch, Molumby as well... But certainly Connolly, he was the one that caught the eye. Connolly and Molumby, I thought, were excellent."
He has the game time, the question is whether McCarthy is willing to affect the u21's crunch qualifier against Iceland fixed for the same day as the Senior team's playoff semi-final against Slovakia. Mick is running out of excuses to parachute a player like Molumby in for Ireland's make-or-break game in March.