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Kevin Kilbane: We have entered the realm of nonsense in the Ireland manager search

Director of Football’s refusal to face the music only deepens concerns around Ireland manager search

An Irish job for an Irish coach. We have learned the hard way that foreigner managers, even those based in England, cannot be tempted to take Ireland into the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Seemingly, someone will take the bait in July. We have entered the realm of nonsense.

There is plenty to come out in the wash about how Marc Canham and the FAI’s ex-CEO Jonathan Hill went about this marathon recruitment process.

Canham’s decision to spin a vague excuse for the endless delays via the FAI social media channels is an example of someone taking the worst possible approach. What was he thinking? He cannot duck the media forever, not if he wants to remain in the role of director of football.


There is still no explanation about the “existing contractual obligations” line about an early April appointment. How can he continue to do the day-to-day work of the association when every person he encounters has one question: what’s happening with the Ireland manager, Marc?

The solution has been staring the FAI in the face all along. It is probably too soon for Stephen Bradley or Damien Duff to take the top/toughest job in Irish sport but they are the future of the game.

In fact, they are the present.

If it ends up being Chris Hughton or John O’Shea, great servants of Irish football at different ends of their coaching careers, so be it.

I fear it won’t be a success either way, under the FAI in its current form, but arguments can be made to go with Hughton and O’Shea on the same ticket, certainly ahead of Gus Poyet and Willy Sagnol.

If Stephen Kenny’s record over 40 international matches had not muddied the waters, Bradley would be a no-brainer to replace him. Rovers have not made an impact in European competitions but four successive league titles from a coach still in his thirties would make him the unanimous choice in any other football nation.

A local coach comes good. Let him at it.

Duffer has done a fantastic job reviving Shelbourne’s fortunes. But the FAI have managed to turn Damien off them, and Bradley should be careful about risking his excellent reputation by working for the association.

I think neither of them have been considered. Another mistake.

The FAI are going with O’Shea for the June friendlies - if he accepts their offer - despite not deeming him qualified enough to be interviewed for the permanent role as recently as December.

What a sorry mess we are in. We needed to hear from Canham in a public setting, not through in-house channels. This is amateur hour stuff. A throwback to the worst of times.

Welsh and Scottish football can show us the way.

This century, the Welsh FA have turned to Mark Hughes, John Toshack, the late Gary Speed, Chris Coleman and Ryan Giggs. Besides two years of Berti Vogts, Scotland have not contemplated a non-Scottish manager. From Matt Busby to Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson to Gordon Strachan, through to Steve Clarke, it’s been one of their own.

Since Jack Charlton, it feels like the FAI decision-makers believe that an Ireland manager needs to teach us the ways of football, to educate the wild Irish, forcing us to adjust, rather than the opposite.

We are on our own now.

The CEO and potentially the director of football role also appears to be Irish jobs for Irish people. At the very least, they need to understand the game here, and how vital it is to grow the domestic scene.

Nobody said the regeneration of Irish football post-John Delaney would be easy, but the public placed their trust in the hands of a CEO, in Jonathan Hill, who has finally gone on holiday.

What a deep hole he leaves behind, especially when it comes to asking the Government for additional funding.

O’Shea’s hands are tied – he cannot say anything that might hinder his future prospects as an Irish coach. Canham’s hands could be tied as well, after attaching his reputation to a task that appears beyond his capabilities.

I feel for O’Shea the most. The FAI have put him in an embarrassing situation. The job may come to him permanently after every other possible avenue is exhausted.

We know that Lee Carsley and Gus Poyet were approached. We know that at least four other men were interviewed.

We know the FAI leadership have got this badly wrong. We can say with some certainty that they do not know what they are doing anymore. If ever they did.

The only upside is there will be more managerial options after the Euros.

I do not accept the narrative that nobody wants this job, except John O’Shea and Neil Lennon. But Canham does not want them. Or so we are led to believe.

Canham is the focus now. Is he qualified to be the FAI director of football? Was he over-promoted to his current position? He only spent a year as the Premier League’s director of football. We need to ask, why was that the case? And why is he hiding behind FAI TV?

If it turns out that Sagnol was offered the Ireland position on the presumption that Greece would beat Georgia in the Euros play-off and he would therefore be available in “early April,” then Irish sport has been duped.

This is ridiculous. The FAI leadership were either lying or they are completely inept.

Either way, Canham cannot continue as normal without a proper explanation of events, mainly why he was so confident that an Ireland manager would be named in early April.

The FAI interviewer forgot to ask that question.

At this stage, we need the next Ireland manager to be emotionally connected to the team. I know that hindered Kenny – his disappointment was etched across his face after each loss – but I’d rather one of our own than someone seeking results before moving onto a better opportunity.

John O’Shea deserves the full support of his employers. But they cannot even get that right. He should demand it. He has leverage now.