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Rumours abound that Mick McCarthy could bring an end to his turbulent spell in charge of the Republic of Ireland this week.

Speculation about McCarthy’s future come in the wake of Ireland’s disappointing start to their EURO 2004 qualifying campaign, which has brought successive defeats to Russia and Switzerland. Moreover, the lingering bad taste left by Roy Keane’s abrupt departure from the Ireland squad on the eve of the World Cup finals, has brought McCarthy into open conflict with sections of the Ireland support.

That McCarthy refused to play down recent speculation linking him with the vacant manager’s job at Sunderland, has angered many Ireland fans.

McCarthy is now set to meet with Football Association of Ireland officials to discuss his future, with the suspicion that he will resign if he is offered an acceptable pay-off from the FAI.

“The awful thing is that the players are now being dragged down. I could be bloody-minded and go all the way through this, whatever happens,” said McCarthy.

“But is that the right thing? Some of them stood up in the press box and said ‘What a great result’. These were Irishmen. Come on. Whatever they think about me, they should support Ireland, support the team.

“When I hear of people actually enjoying the fact that Ireland have been beaten, I can comfortably say that there is a campaign to do that. It is very sad.”

David O’Leary and John Aldridge were among the contenders to replace McCarthy should he leave, although former Real Madrid and Real Sociedad coach John Toshack has recently entered the frame.

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