Failing to qualify for the last four major tournaments have seen many Irish supporters frustrated, although most would argue that the pool of talent is simply not there. Failing to beat nations such as Finland, Luxembourg, Azerbaijan and Greece in recent times have left many angered.
As soon as it was confirmed that Stephen Kenny was leaving the role, there was no real shock, as many pundits felt there was no option but to see the 52-year-old leave.
- Lee Carsley appeared to be one name that was fancied to take up the role. The Birmingham born man played 40 times for the republic side between 1997 and 2008. The 49-year-old led the England under 21 team to European success last year with his side going the whole way to glory without conceding a single goal. As he did a remarkable job with a young England u21 squad, could the former Everton man do the same with a relatively young Irish squad?
- A more experienced name linked to the job includes former Brighton manager Chris Hughton. The former republic international has lots of experience as he has also managed Newcastle, Birmingham, Norwich and Nottingham Forest. He is currently the manager of the Ghana national team in which he took the role in February 2023.
- One of Ireland’s greatest ever players who has expressed a return to management is Roy Keane. The Cork man’s management career is yet to take off as he has only managed two clubs, Sunderland and Ipswich. Both of these jobs only lasted two years and they were in 2006 and 2009. Most recently he was the assistant to Martin O Neill, where they led the national team from 2013 to 2018. The 52-year-old who is well known as a pundit on Sky Sports where he often says it as it is.
- Another Irish footballing legend who is linked to the job includes the current Shelbourne boss, Damien Duff. He has done a decent job so far for the Dubliners as they are now a stable side in the top division. The former premier league winner with Chelsea led Shelbourne to a cup final in his first year although they came up short against a good Derry city Side. The 44-year-old was previously on board as a coach under Stephen Kenny and had issues with the FAI when a video incident in which Duff was involved in relating to the history between Ireland and England got out and as a result the Dubliner resigned shortly after the controversy.
- A surprise name who threw his hat into the ring for the job is current Greek manager, Gus Poyet. His side beat Ireland twice in recent times including when they shocked Ireland with a 2-0 win in Dublin. The former Chelsea star would be seen as a shock appointment but it’s clear that he’s interested.
The man that I think is best suited to become the next Irish manager is Neil Lennon. The former captain of Northern Ireland has been out of work for the last year after he was sacked by Cypriot side Omonia. Lennon has lots of managerial experience where he has managed Scottish sides, Celtic and Hibernian. The 52-year-old won ten trophies with the Glasgow giants as well as silverware with Hibs and Omonia. When Martin O Neill exited the Irish job in 2018, Lennon was linked to the role but was content to stay manager of Hibernian. As he is currently out of work, a first tilt at international management could well be on the cards. Lennon has become the bookies favourite in recent weeks as the speculation has spiced up. With names such as Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce linked, I hope the FAI don’t go for well-known established men as I feel the next boss should be relatively young and ambitious.
I feel it’s a crucial time in Irish Football history to get this appointment right as it’s evident there are young players coming through which in the next few years show their talent as they hopefully can play football to their full potential. Players including Evan Ferguson, Andrew Moran, Festy Ebosle and Kevin Zefi are names that could inspire Ireland to a more successful period compared to recent times.