John O’Shea: ‘If I could be manager of Ireland in the morning, I would make it happen’

Greece manager Gus Poyet is free from ‘existing contractual obligations’ on Sunday

John O’Shea wants to be a manager. Not a coach, not a number two, the boss. Correction: O’Shea wants to be the Republic of Ireland manager. Not in a few years, now.

“My instinct would be that I’m more than ready and capable to be a manager”, said the interim Irish coach after the 1-0 loss to Switzerland at the Aviva stadium on Tuesday night.

The 42-year-old’s managerial record is played two, won none, scored zero, a draw with Belgium and a loss after Xherdan Shaqiri’s neatly placed free-kick.

After the live press conference, O’Shea gave the written media a debrief on the international window.


The first item on the agenda was a clarification. Earlier this month, FAI director of football Marc Canham announced that “existing contractual obligations” are hindering the announcement of a new “head coach” to replace Stephen Kenny, four months after Kenny’s contractual obligations ended.

All would be revealed in “early April”, said Canham.

On Tuesday, Gus Poyet’s Greece failed to qualify for the Euros after losing a penalty shootout against Georgia in Tbilisi. It might be a coincidence but Poyet – a great admirer of the “black” Ireland tracksuit – cannot speak about his future as the Uruguayan is hindered by existing contractual obligations. Until Sunday.

Back to O’Shea, who was Poyet’s skipper at Sunderland. Any hindering contractual obligations?

“Not that I know of, no.

“Look, the response I got from the players in terms of how they spoke tonight [in dressing room one], it was great for me to hear, but it was also a backing of what the staff were able to do. We got that feeling across to the players about what we wanted them to do.

“Ultimately though, we needed to win football games. To get a draw against Belgium and to lose to Switzerland, we were pleased with the element of fixing things in game that were causing us issues. And going on to dominate large parts of the second half, that was pleasing but what I spoke about to the players was that we need to win games, we need to win games now.”

A straight talker by nature, O’Shea cannot give straight answer to this ongoing recruitment situation, and while he should know more than he is saying, he appears to be handcuffed by circumstance.

“If I could be the manager of Real Madrid, Manchester United or Ireland in the morning, I would make it happen.”

Canham implied that the next Ireland manager would be someone else, is that accurate? “I would tell you, I would give you the clarity, I don’t have it either,” O’Shea replied.

The FAI said in December that all candidates had been approached, did they speak to him before Christmas?

“No, that wasn’t a scenario for me because they were talking about a manager with experience.”

The experience box has just been ticked.

“Yeah. What I felt from the organisation, how I was going to learn about myself and the staff to prepare teams to face top international opposition, I was really pleased and happy about.

“But ultimately you’ve got to win too. The counterpoint to that is I was more than happy with everything we did and how we went about it.”

On Monday, Burnley defender Dara O’Shea backed his namesake to become Ireland manager, noting the importance of the position being filled with someone connected to the country.

“I would have always felt that,” said John O’Shea, “but I’ve also worked with amazing managers from different parts of the world.

“You appreciate that to manage a club or international team, it’s a really important skillset in terms of the balance and control of what you need, understanding squads, ages, where players can help you out, knowing the group.

“Putting all those factors together and plenty of managers from Ireland would love the job. Plenty of managers from around the world would love the job too.

“During the last five years, my thought process was to learn from coaches and managers, how to go about things to be a manager. The taste it’s given me has reaffirmed my thought process to be a manager.”

If Poyet or someone else is unveiled next week, O’Shea will consider working as an assistant coach.

“It would be a discussion I’d have with the potential incoming manager but that’s a wait-and-see job.”

Does he believe an agreement with a new manager is already in place? “I’d tell you if there was. I don’t know why I wouldn’t tell you. From the wording I’ve heard before the previous games, they said they have. That’s my understanding of it.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent