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14th Sep 2023

Assessing the FAI’s managerial options if Stephen Kenny leaves Ireland post

Rory Fleming

There are some interesting candidates potentially available to the FAI…

After three years at the helm, Stephen Kenny looks set to be leaving his post as Republic of Ireland manager following what was yet another dispiriting international window.

Defeats at the hands of France and the Netherlands see the Boys in Green firmly out of contention in terms of qualifying for Euro 2024. There’s also little chance of securing a playoff.

According to reports on Tuesday, the FAI are working on an ‘exit plan’ and Kenny’s position appears to be under imminent threat.

Stephen Kenny

With the news that the former Dundalk boss’ time may be up, attention is now set to turn over who the new-look FAI board will target next.

Ireland were once able to tempt the managerial might of Jack Charlton and Giovanni Trapattoni, but with the lack of both playing and financial resources, those days appear to have long left the FAI behind.

With the organisation set to reconvene over the coming days, we assess the realistic managerial options who will likely be in contention for the role, along with a wild card pick or two to lift spirits in these uncertain footballing times.

Stephen Kenny’s realistic successors.

The criteria to be on the list of Kenny’s realistic successors is simple:

1. Lee Carsley.

The unequivocal front-runner for the job, Carsley has been linked with the role for a number of months. Having won the Under-21 European Championships over the summer in his role as England U21 boss, the former Republic of Ireland manager is seen as an ideal candidate by the FAI to step into the void left by Kenny’s departure and continue on in a similar vein of developing young talent.

However, Carsley is also reportedly highly regarded by the FA and is thought to be a viable successor to Gareth Southgate who is set to step down from the English senior side after Euro 2024.

2. Damien Duff.

Duffer – an unparalleled motivator, or alternatively, a passion merchant, depending on who you ask in League of Ireland circles. However, the job the Irish centurion has done at Shelbourne since taking over ahead of the 2022 season has been undeniably impressive.

Leading the Tolka Park side to an FAI Cup Final and to the brink of European football reflects as much. Despite his attacking prowess in his playing days, Duff has forged a reputation for making his sides very hard to break down and this comes with the added bonus of having previously worked with this cohort of players as an assistant coach.

3. Anthony Barry.

An unfamiliar name to some, those who keep a keen eye on national team proceedings will be acutely aware of the former Fleetwood and Wrexham midfielder. Currently working in roles as Thomas Tuchel’s assistant at Bayern Munich and aiding Roberto Martinez at Portugal, Barry previously held the same title for the Republic of Ireland under Kenny.

With extensive experience coaching at a high level, the Irish players speak glowingly about his innovative and progressive sessions, although he has never held a head coach role before.

4. Stephen Bradley.

Another League of Ireland option, the Shamrock Rovers boss is on the brink of leading the Hoops to an astounding fourth League of Ireland title in a row.

Deploying a 3-5-2 system in an extremely similar vein to Kenny, Bradley would be an astute fit should the goal be to remain playing and building on the footballing philosophies introduced to this young Irish side by Stephen Kenny.

Having now coached at the European level too following Rover’s run to the Conference League group stages, Bradley’s stock continues to rise.

5. Keith Andrews.

Again, Andrews appointment would be one made with the idea of building on top of Stephen Kenny’s reign, rather than starting completely from scratch.

Capped 35 times by Ireland, the Dublin native has been a vocal figure on the Irish touchline under Kenny, and is reportedly viewed in good stead by the playing squad.

Experience of playing at the top level is a bonus, but like Barry, having never previously held the top job before, Andrews’ ascension would require a big leap of faith on behalf of the FAI.

The ‘wild card’ Kenny successors.

The criteria for Kenny’s wild card successors is a bit more lax. Damaged Premier League reputations are the aim of the game here. Putting aside the FAI’s financial predicaments for a brief moment and envisioning a generous donor coming to the organisation’s aid, here are a number of available managerial options who just might be willing to take on the challenge in a bid to reignite their careers, and who at one point in time, seemed to be the next big thing…

1. Graham Potter.

Everyone is familiar with the names on this list, the heavy lifting is just explaining why they deserve a second bite of the carrot having all failed in their previous roles… In Graham Potter’s case, it was his expansive style of play which caught the eye at Brighton, guiding them from relegation fodder to the brink of Europe.

It all went a bit pear-shaped at Chelsea, but his experience of working under the chaos of Todd Boehly might have been the perfect preparation for life under the FAI.

2. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.

From Old Trafford to the Aviva Stadium. Not a particularly well-trodden path we’ll admit, but those early days at United were at the very least exciting, and given Ireland’s current form, exciting is certainly something worth settling for. From famous wins over the likes of PSG and Man City, Solksjaer has already mastered the timeless Irish tradition of playing eleven men behind the ball and hitting sides on the break. Shane Long v Germany 2.0 anyone?

Stephen KennyOle Gunnar Solskjaer and Graham Potter are two wild-card picks worth noting. (Credit: Getty Images)

3. Jesse Marsch.

Leeds fans look away now. Another name on this list who initially showed promise having steered the Yorkshire side clear of relegation, he ultimately failed to live up to the expectations set by his predecessor Marcelo Bielsa, but few could in the American’s defence. Known for playing a high-paced, pressing game, Marsch relies on players’ fitness over their technique, a tact which may suit this current crop of Irish players down to the ground.

4. Ralph Hassenhuttl.

Southampton, what were you thinking? Four years at the helm on the British south coast saw the Austrian garner praise for his coaching of young players and implementation of the famed gegenpress. Linked with a number of Premier League and Bundesliga vacancies since his dismissal last season, Hassenhuttl would be a major coup for the FAI, but one which most definitely falls on the side of wild card rather than realistic.

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