Search for new Ireland manager could now stretch into September

FAI director of football Marc Canham sets new deadline of England Nations League game

The Football Association of Ireland’s director of football Marc Canham is hoping to have a Republic of Ireland manager is place before the visit of England to Dublin for the Nations League match on September 7th.

Canham, speaking to FAI TV, having cancelled a media briefing this week, apologised for repeatedly pushing out the deadline to unveil a replacement for Stephen Kenny, who was let go by the FAI on November 22nd, 2023.

An interim head coach will be appointed for June friendlies against Hungary and Portugal but Canham was unable to confirm the retention of John O’Shea.

“We would like that to be John O’Shea,” said Canham. “We were very pleased with what he did in March friendlies. We are talking to him and hope to confirm it as soon as possible.”


With Canham seemingly reluctant to offer O’Shea the role on a permanent basis, the former Manchester United player could seek alternative employment.

The absence of an Ireland manager for 10 months is unprecedented in the history of Irish football. In February, Canham said the process was “very close” to conclusion and all would be revealed in “early April” due to “existing contractual obligations” of their primary target.

In Friday’s in-house interview, Canham does not deal with his comment about “existing contractual obligations.” Nor was he asked about his assurances from two months ago that budgetary constraints were not hindering the recruitment process.

“The update today is that the process is not concluded and will remain ongoing,” said Canham. “We recognise that that is not the news people wanted to hear. There are a number of reasons for why this is the case. One is around the criteria that we are looking at, the type of head coach, we want someone who will come in and improve the team and make us competitive.

“We want a coach who has a good mixture of club and international experience. We are very clear around what we want to achieve.

“The second point is around the conditions; we spoke to a number of coaches who are available at the moment but also those with contractual arrangements that are already existing.

“And the third point is around the competitiveness of the market. We are looking for the right coach for the right fit and the right timing for that person and for us.

“We will continue to search to find the best person for the job.”

Canham continued: “We recognise the timelines and deadlines that we previously set created a sense of expectation and confusion for everyone. In hindsight, we would maybe not set those deadlines if we were to do this again. We would just commit to finding find the best person and take as long as that should take, that’s our aim.

“We recognise and apologise for that, but ultimately we remain confidence that this process will result in us finding the best person for the job.”

Gus Poyet was not mentioned. Nor was Chris Hughton or Anthony Barry, the current Portugal assistant coach. Along with Lee Carsley, those three candidates are believed to have turned down FAI offers to consider managing Ireland.

The recruitment reset suggests an appointment after the Euros ends in mid-July, which could bring Georgia coach Willy Sagnol back into the frame.

Former FAI director of communications Cathal Dervan, who remains on staff, conducted the Canham interview. The interim head of FAI communications, Murray Barnett, has not made any contact with the media since replacing Louise Cassidy last month.

Paul Cooke, the current FAI president, is believed to have taken a more proactive leadership role since Jonathan Hill’s departure as chief executive earlier this week. FAI chairperson Tony Keohane informed staff on Thursday that the process to find a new CEO would take six to nine months.

David Courell, a Mayo native who spent five years at the English FA before returning to Dublin as the FAI chief operating officer, will remain as interim CEO.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent