FAI’s pursuit of a new manager enters its endgame with permanent appointment due in April

After John O’Shea was announced as the interim manager until after upcoming round of friendlies, are the FAI waiting for Lee Carsley?

The Football Association of Ireland’s wording of the statement to appoint John O’Shea as interim Republic of Ireland manager suggests that director of football Marc Canham is at an endgame in his pursuit of a permanent successor for Stephen Kenny. Particularly the fifth paragraph.

“The FAI can also confirm that an announcement for the permanent head coach of the men’s national team will be made in early April.” Canham added that the process is “near completion.”

Early April comes straight after March 26th, when the Swiss come to Dublin on the same night Lee Carsley’s England under-21s play Luxembourg in Bolton.

“Lee is a very principled fella,” said former Ireland manager Brian Kerr recently. “He is certainly not a money chaser. I believe he is the number one choice but the FAI have not been able to make that appointment.”


Maybe Carsley was not prepared to leave the English FA high and dry. Not until April, potentially.

The head-hunting team of Canham, chief executive Jonathan Hill and Packie Bonner are believed to have settled for O’Shea as a stopgap when talks to install a permanent manager stalled. Or, perhaps, the FAI are waiting for Carsley.

Nobody in the know has clarified the situation but the former Ireland and Everton midfielder remains the outstanding candidate to replace Kenny, especially after guiding the England under-21s to a Euros title last year.

Canham recently stated that budget constraints are not hindering the process but, clearly, efforts to secure a head coach on a four-year deal have hit a snag. An increased salary of €700,000, up from the €560,000 paid to Kenny, could entice Carsley to vacate his role at the FA, despite UK media tipping him to succeed Gareth Southgate as senior England manager.

Canham and O’Shea will hold a press conference on Friday, ahead of announcing the squad to face Belgium on March 23rd at the Aviva stadium.

It is 99 days since the association parted ways with Kenny following a disappointing Euro 2024 qualification campaign that included home and away defeats to Greece. O’Shea was a part of that coaching ticket, as Ireland’s fourth assistant in three years after Damien Duff, Anthony Barry and John Eustace.

It’s not unusual for the FAI to appoint an interim manager, with Don Givens twice holding the fort in between the appointment of Kerr in 2003 and Giovanni Trapattoni in 2008.

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O’Shea arrives with the highly rated Crystal Palace assistant manager Paddy McCarthy as his number two.

“John has developed a strong level of excellent coaching experience across both domestic and international football and has recently been involved at both under-21 and senior level with Ireland alongside his considerable achievements as an international player and in his club career,” said Canham.

“John knows this group of players extremely well and with the support and expertise of Paddy, we believe this team are the right choice for the interim period.”

McCarthy, who is from Dublin, came through the Manchester City academy before making over 130 appearances for Palace and winning seven caps for the Ireland under-21s. On retirement in 2016, he went straight into coaching with the 40-year-old promoted to caretaker manager after the club parted ways with Patrick Viera and then Roy Hodgson. In 2009, McCarthy was an unused sub when Ireland beat South African in Limerick.

O’Shea’s playing record speaks for itself. Following a stellar 12 years at Manchester United, where he made 256 appearances and won five Premier League titles, he played 226 games for Sunderland before finishing at Reading in 2019.

The Waterford native played 118 times for his country over 17 years, making him the fourth-most capped Irish international behind Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Emma Byrne.

His coaching education includes stints at Reading, the Ireland under-21s and Stoke City.

“It will be an incredible honour to lead the side into the March international window,” he said. “I’ve got great belief in this group of players to win football matches and looking forward to some positive results.”

O’Shea could be retained on the long-term coaching ticket. He left the association last November to become an assistant to Wayne Rooney at Birmingham City. Rooney was sacked inside three months but his replacement, Tony Mowbray, asked O’Shea to remain at St Andrews.

“John wants to be a manager and wants a shot at it,” said Mowbray in January. “We had a long chat, I tried to persuade him to stay.”

In December, Hill said he “definitely” wanted a new manager “by February” to ensure adequate preparation for the March games and June encounters against Hungary and Portugal. The next competitive outing is the Nations League meeting with England on September 7th at the Aviva stadium. A chance for the players to atone against Greece follows three days later.

Ahead of the monthly board meeting in Abbotstown, the O’Shea news took the public focus off Hill’s statements to the Oireachtas public accounts committee last week. FAI chairperson Tony Keohane, meanwhile, has agreed to engage with the workplace relations commission over Siptu-members seeking pay increases and a bonus structure linked to Ireland teams qualifying for major tournaments.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent