Three Irish stories to look out for this weekend

by Brian Strahan

1.  Return of The Mick

Eight month’s is not too lengthy a spell to be out of football management.  At least Mick McCarthy has had the distraction of at one stage at least; being widely tipped to return to the Irish job he left with a sense of injustice a decade ago.

The Barnsley born ex-Irish centre back had been continually linked with Championship positions that were beginning to come about, including Blackburn Rovers and Crystal Palace recently.  But Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans enticed McCarthy to a club that has underachieved consistently, with a two and a half year contract and a hope of a return to the upper echelons of the Championship table as opposed to the base where they are currently so firmly rooted.

With in and around €85 million spent by Evans over the last five years he might be hoping for a return to footballing basics under a manager who has achieved promotion with limited sides.  McCarthy has regularly achieved with mediocre resources and will be hoping the finances made available to previous managers will be at his disposal too.

But McCarthy’s greatest strengths are his direct manner, down to earth sense of humour and ability to piece together constructive and entertaining teams.

Piecing together such a team straight away might prove difficult.  The new Ipswich boss remarked on Thursday, “What it {Ipswich} hasn’t got at the moment is a particularly good team.”  You can’t get much more direct then that.

A debut trip away to a Birmimgham side with their own troubles could be interesting fare.  Expect the level of interest in Ipswich Town’s results to revert to that of Roy Keane’s tenure.  But what’s hoped is for a more productive end result.

2.  Miller Down Under

Saturday afternoon and a football match with Emile Heskey starting up front for a team called Newcastle and an ex-Irish international in the opposing midfield.  Forgiveness would be offered for presuming otherwise, but what would be on offer in this scenario is the meeting of two ex-Premiership players in Australia’s A-League.

Emile Heskey has settled quickly and comfortably into the Newcastle Jets side, which are based in New South Wales.  The ex-Aston Villa and Leicester striker has scored four in four.

This weekend’s opposition, Perth Glory, will contain ex-Irish international midfielder Liam Miller.  After spells with Celtic, Manchester United and Hibernian, Miller joined the Australian side on a two-year contract in June 2011.

Miller has settled well into the side and has contributed to his clubs good home form.  He will be hoping to bounce back from defeat to Alessandro Del Piero’s Sydney FC last Sunday.

Ahead of this weekends game the Cork man commented on his clubs home ground, “We’ve made it {the NIB Stadium} a fortress, so hopefully we can play our game and get the win.”

The A-league has got some marquee signings in recent months, but Irish interest is now worthy in the presence of a settled and important player in Miller, who at 31 still has plenty left to offer.

3.  Wandering Irishman

It must be tough for Gary Doherty, having spent six years with Norwich he now must look on as captain of League Two side Wycombe Wanderers as Norwich try and cement their place in the Premiership.

Doherty was a regular for The Canaries under Bryan Gunn. He had taken over the captain’s role when Gunn was dismissed by Norwich and new manager Paul Lambert, who coincidentally had managed Wycombe between 2006 and 2008, took the reigns and proceeded to immediately drop the big Donegal man.  It was also made clear his future lay away from Carrow Road.

But the versatile Irishman fought his way back into the Norwich line up and contributed with a series of sound defensive displays and seven goals over the 2009/10 season.  Doherty must have felt he had won over the Scot when he finished third in the Norwich player of the year awards.  His reward?  An almost immediate release from the club.

After joining Charlton Athletic that same summer, Doherty spent 18 months with The Addicks before a loan deal in February of this year to Wycombe.  The loan deal became permanent this summer and he now captains the Buckinghamshire club.

Tomorrow is FA cup day for Wycombe and Doherty will be hoping that his side can dump another League One club out of a cup after dislodging Portsmouth from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Fratton Park, when they travel to Crewe Alexandra.

This will be a welcome distraction for Doherty and his side who face a winter of struggle, sitting one place off the relegation zone on goal difference.  The Adams Park side will be pulling heavily on Doherty’s experience and resourcefulness in the months to come if they are to avoid slipping into non league football.

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