Mick McCarthy remains frontrunner in possible six-strong shortlist

FAI will see Mick McCarthy as a proven option, while Chris Hughton rules himself out

Mick McCarthy: reports that a deal could be concluded by the weekend appear to be premature.  Photograph:  Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Mick McCarthy: reports that a deal could be concluded by the weekend appear to be premature. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

 

Brighton boss Chris Hughton has ruled himself out of the running for the Ireland job, but Mick McCarthy remains well placed to return to the post over the coming days.

The association has started what is described as “the process” of finding Martin O’Neill’s replacement, and there is talk of a six-strong shortlist. It is unclear, however, whether Hughton was one of those or how seriously it is expected that some of the others might engage.

“No, what I am interested in is the job I’m doing here,” said Hughton when asked whether he was interested in the vacancy at the Premier League club’s press conference on Thursday. “I’ve got a group of players who worked very hard to get into this division and that’s where all my thoughts and concentrations are.”

Like the former Republic of Ireland defender, Brendan Rodgers is under contract for another three seasons at Celtic, but the association may yet go through the formalities of sounding the 45-year-old out. Signs of serious interest might provide the association with a tempting option, but it would be costly and seems improbable. Sam Allardyce has expressed an interest and seems likely to be talked to.

Open door

The association continues to see McCarthy as a more proven option at this point in time, and it seems they would be pushing an open door if they sought to have their former manager return.

Some initial contact has been made but no formal talks have yet taken place; reports that a deal could be concluded by the weekend appear to be premature.

McCarthy, of course, got this far last time only to see O’Neill get the job ahead of him, and so he is unlikely to be taking anything for granted.

It seems hugely unlikely that Robbie Keane would be his assistant in the event that McCarthy was appointed, with Terry Connor, the onetime England under-21 international, who was his assistant at both Wolves and Ipswich over a combined period of nine years, almost certainly the man that he would look to bring in.

The association does have a policy, though, of trying to involve relatively recent internationals in team structures so as to help progress their coaching careers, and McCarthy is understood to have a good relationship with Keane, so both sides would probably be happy for the Republic’s leading goalscorer to have a role.

I would actually love to see Stephen Kenny getting the top job, but his profile mightn’t be big enough

With the association still anxious to have somebody in place ahead of Sunday week’s European Championship qualifying stages group draw, meeting are expected to start taking place over the coming days, but it is likely to be the early part of next week before any announcement would be made.

Strong candidate

It is understood that the FAI saw Stephen Kenny as a strong candidate for the under-21 manager’s job, something Kenny might, at another time, have been persuaded to see as a stepping stone to the senior role, but the 47-year-old is clearly hopeful of being favourably considered for the main job now.

The Dundalk manager continues to receive significant popular backing, with former Ireland manager Eoin Hand putting forward the idea that Kenny and McCarthy could work together.

“I would actually love to see Stephen getting the top job, but his profile mightn’t be big enough,” said Hand. “So bringing in Mick McCarthy, who has experience of getting us to finals, to work with him would be an excellent choice, with Stephen taking over eventually.

“Stephen has earned the right to be number one and there is no question that he wouldn’t have the respect of the senior players. He is such a hard worker and so brilliant with organisation and detail that he could do for Irish soccer what Joe Schmidt has done for rugby.”

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