FAI to address vacant manager’s role before Christmas

Uncapped Peamount forwards named ahead of Amber Barrett described as ‘football decision’ by Eileen Gleeson

Republic of Ireland v Hungary
Tallaght stadium, 7.30pm – Live RTÉ Two

The FAI will address the vacant Republic of Ireland women’s head coach position before Christmas. Interim manager Eileen Gleeson has been repeatedly asked about the role but she intends to return to her full-time job as the association’s Head of Women and Girls’ Football in January.

“I think it will be sorted soon enough,” she said of the vacancy on Thursday.

Despite guiding Ireland to four wins in the Nations League B division, Gleeson is not being considered as a replacement for Vera Pauw, who parted company with the FAI three months ago. Victories over Northern Ireland, Hungary and Albania (twice), with a goal aggregate of 13-1, has guaranteed promotion to the top tier of European football in 2024.

Director of football March Canham is tasked with replacing Pauw and former men’s senior manager Stephen Kenny. Canham is also publishing a white paper that will detail the FAI’s medium to long-term plan around nurturing talent.


Ireland captain Katie McCabe and her teammates have consistently praised the interim set-up, where Gleeson is joined by a coaching staff of Emma Byrne, Colin Healy, Richie Fitzgibbon and Ivi Casagrande, while the addition of psychologist Sarah Murray and nutritionist Dr Brendan Egan were hailed as overdue appointments.

Interestingly, Freya Healy and Ellen Dolan, two uncapped forwards from League of Ireland champions Peamount United were included in this week’s camp ahead of Amber Barrett. The 27-year-old striker has five goals in 10 appearances for Standard Liège this season. Last June, Barrett scored her sixth and seventh international goals from 27 caps in the 3-2 World Cup warm-up defeat of Zambia.

However, on Sunday when Emily Whelan was ruled out through injury, the 16-year-old Healy was called into camp for the first time.

“It’s a football decision,” Gleeson explained, “and we have a bigger talent pool that we are looking at right now and we have different objectives around transitioning young players through.

“Amber is also part of that talent pool but we also base our decisions on what type of combinations we might like to play, we base it on game-time, we base it on [the] level that players are playing at.

“There are different objectives for different age groups coming through and Freya is 16 and she is naturally playing here, because you can’t go aboard until you are 18 anyway, so if we are going to blood in the young talent and under-18s, they will come most likely from the Irish league.

“The competition is much higher now and we look at a number of factors around what squad combination we want, what game-time, what level they are playing at, what is the performance in those games, so it is not as simplistic as you have always been in the squad so you always will be, because we have made a number of changes.

“It is not to say that a player who is not in this squad won’t be in the next one. This is the squad we preferred for this camp.”

What does Barrett need to do in the Belgian league to earn a recall? “That conversation is for me and Amber to talk about. There is a combination of factors that go into it. It is a competitive environment here now and we make decisions based on who the opposition are, and all of those we have just mentioned there.”

Gleeson clarified that the priority is to beat Hungary tonight and Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Tuesday with “blooding players” a secondary consideration.

Competition for places remains high as Tyler Toland, Megan Connolly and Sinead Farrelly look to fill two midfield slots alongside Denise O’Sullivan. If Izzy Atkinson gets the nod at left wing back, McCabe could play behind lone striker Kyra Carusa as, since the World Cup, the pair have combined for eight goals in three matches.

“We’ve got Kyra and Denise O’Sullivan playing at the highest level [in USA]. We’ve got Caitlin Hayes coming in and really driving performance as well,” Gleeson continued. “We’ve got young players, like Izzy Atkinson terrorising and being really direct, putting really great balls into the box.

“We’ve got Abbie Larkin and Heather Payne, so what we are starting to get is a collective peaking of performances, and we’ve got those young players coming through with no fear, expressing themselves and being up there putting in balls and scoring goals. It’s building into a really nice mix.”

Ireland (possible): Courtney Brosnan (Everton); Caitlin Hayes (Celtic), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Diane Caldwell (FC Zurich); Heather Payne (Everton), Tyler Toland (Blackburn Rovers), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Bristol City), Izzy Atkinson (West Ham United); Katie McCabe (Arsenal); Kyra Carusa (San Diego Wave)

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent