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McCarthy says he will quit after Euro 2004

© Reuters 2002

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Ireland manager Mick McCarthy says he will walk away from the job after the 2004 European Championships, whether or not they qualify.

Ireland lost their opening qualifier 4-2 in Russia and face a home clash with Switzerland on Wednesday which they cannot afford to lose, with McCarthy insisting this will be his last campaign in charge.

In an interview in Monday's Guardian, McCarthy said: "I'd like to qualify for the European Championships and then I will have done eight years in the job and I think that's more than enough.

"I will go away from it, whatever happens. Even if we qualify I will go and look for a job."

McCarthy was favourite to take over at premier league club Sunderland last week after the sacking of Peter Reid and although the job was given to former Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson, McCarthy says the day-to-day involvement of club football is his preferred option.

"I would still like to manage in the Premiership," he said. "I'll manage a football club but the kick is the team. That's what drives us all on, I imagine. It certainly drives me: the football matches.

"You can have more of an influence on the players, certainly (at a club). That is the best part of the job, training with the players, doing coaching sessions, not all the other stuff that goes with it."

For the moment, however, McCarthy is concentrating on making sure his team bounce back from the defeat in Russia - only their third competitive loss in three years.

While not blaming that defeat in Moscow on the Roy Keane saga, McCarthy says the fall-out from the pre-World Cup bust-up is still hanging around.

The issue refuses to go away, however. "There's an underlying thing with Roy and whether he'll play that's still being churned up," said McCarthy.

"That's a bit of a negative influence around the squad. "Before the Russia game some of the lads said that, before every question. Roy was mentioned or something about what went on was mentioned.

"While that remains it doesn't do us any favours but that's the way it is, I'm afraid.

"I'm not going to suggest that anything to do with the performance (in Moscow) was down to that. But when you are preparing for a big game, you don't want to be answering questions about that."

Keane was expelled from Ireland's World Cup squad after a training ground character assassination of McCarthy in front of the rest of the players.

McCarthy was criticised by fans and Irish media alike for his handling of the Manchester United captain, although the team's subsequent good showing at the finals largely silenced his critics. "I could have walked away and everyone would have had good memories of the team in the World Cup," said McCarthy who insists a reconciliation between himself and Keane "is not going to happen."

"But that's a bit easy isn't it? I love doing this job and to qualify for Portugal in 2004 was my ambition."

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