FAI keep media and public guessing over the identity of next Ireland manager

Lee Carsley hailed his side’s display (Joe Giddens/PA)
Lee Carsley hailed his side’s display (Joe Giddens/PA) Lee Carsley has been linked to the Republic of Ireland post but reports suggest he has withdrawn from the process

THERE was a time when the FAI leaked like a sieve and the whole print media would feast on the latest managerial appointment or exit.

As the FAI seeks to rebuild its reputation post the John Delaney years – albeit via a couple of uncomfortable appearances at the Public Accounts Committee over Jonathan Hill’s holiday pay – the association has managed to keep its cards close to its chest over the identity of Ireland’s next senior manager.

It’s either that or they don’t actually know themselves who will succeed Stephen Kenny whose contract wasn’t renewed after the November friendly with New Zealand.

Even when Kenny was still in the role, but clearly on his way out, Lee Carsley’s name was being heavily linked to the Republic of Ireland managerial position.

But after all this time, the FAI hasn’t been able to unveil the 40-times capped Ireland midfielder and current England U21 manager.

Indeed, there were media reports at the weekend suggesting that the Birmingham-born Carsley was out of the running.

At the Nations League draw in Paris earlier this month, where the Irish were drawn to face England, Greece and Finland later this year, FAI chiefs insisted money was not a barrier to appointing the next manager.

The salaries of Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O’Neill’s managerial appointments in 2008 and 2013, respectively, were part-funded by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien.

No such funding arrangements were sought for Mick McCarthy or Stephen Kenny’s subsequent appointments and the association has stated that there will be no outside financial help to find the next manager.

It is understood Kenny commanded a salary of over €500,000.

Whether the FAI failed to agree financial terms with Carsley is unclear while there has been some speculation that getting the backroom team over the line may have been a stumbling block.

And from leftfield, former Wales manager Chris Coleman was being touted for the job last week before a local journalist had it on good authority that the 53-year-old wouldn’t be interested in becoming Ireland’s next manager.

Moreover, Coleman never quite fitted the FAI’s desire to appoint a hands-on ‘head coach’ as the former Swansea City manager is not that type of coach.

At the unveiling of the FAI’s Football Pathway Plans earlier this week, Footballing Director Marc Canham said they were “very close” and that they would “hope to announce it really soon”.

Defending the length of time it is taking the association to appoint Kenny’s successor, Canham said: “It’s a similar approach to the women’s [managerial] process. We’re not a club, we’re an international team, we don’t have a game every week, so we have the fortunate opportunity to take our time with it.

“We’ve done it in a professional way. It’s been very robust, very diligent, we spoke to lots of candidates both in Ireland and in the UK, and far and wide. We’ve taken our time and we want to make sure we get the right person for the job.”

Neil Lennon’s candidacy would appear to be still on the table but you’d imagine if the FAI wanted the former Celtic manager they would have moved by now.

Neil Lennon enjoyed success with Celtic (PA)
Neil Lennon enjoyed success with Celtic (PA) The FAI has not yet moved for Neil Lennon despite his availability for the vacant manager's role

Another possible reason for the delay in an announcement is Anthony Barry’s departure from Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

The former Chelsea coach, who assisted Stephen Kenny for a period before leaving to become Belgium assistant in February 2022, has been part of Thomas Tuchel’s backroom team at Bayern.

However, the Bundesliga giants announced earlier this week Tuchel would be leaving at the end of the season.

Presumably, that would leave Barry a free agent and he might be in the reckoning to make a return to Ireland.

The 37-year-old former Everton youth team player made a dramatic impact in the short time he was with Ireland and would be a popular choice among the players.

Speaking in June 2021 ahead of a friendly with Hungary, Ireland central defender John Egan described Barry’s contribution as “unreal”.

“This is obviously my first camp working with him and the ideas I’ve learned from him have been unreal in a week already,” said Egan.

“I can see why he is at a club like Chelsea and it’s fantastic that we have him here. It’s fantastic for every player here to learn from him.

“Without going into too much detail, on the training ground there are ideas for different scenarios on the pitch. He’s top-class.”

John O’Shea, who was also part of Kenny’s backroom team, is expected to remain in position regardless of who the next manager is and could take on a caretaker managerial role for next month’s friendly games against Belgium and Switzerland should the FAI require more time to find the right candidate.