It was announced on Wednesday morning that Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, as well as his assistant Roy Keane are set to leave their roles with the Irish FA.
The former Sunderland and Aston Villa boss had been in charge since 2013, leading the country to qualification for the European Championships in 2016. However, the time has now come for his successor to be appointed, and it is a choice that the Irish FA cannot afford to get wrong.
Poor form has to be halted
Leading up to the departure of O’Neill, the team were on a terrible run of form. Throughout their last ten games in all competitions, they have only managed to win one of those games – that being a 2-1 victory over the United States of America.
One damning statistic though is the fact that they failed to score in six of those games. As a matter of fact, prior to O’Neill’s departure, the Republic of Ireland did not manage to score in any of their last five games. They have not gone on a worse run without finding the back of the net since a six-match goalless run back in 1996.
It goes without saying that this run has to end sooner rather than later if the country have any aspirations of reaching any major tournaments in the near future. The new manager, then, will have to be a man capable of halting this horrific run and instilling a winning attitude at the Aviva Stadium.
Young players have to want to play for Ireland
One severe problem that the country have experienced in recent years is attracting youngsters to don the green shirt. Jack Grealish’s dilemma of either representing England or Ireland was well broadcast, as well as West Ham United’s Declan Rice. Whilst Grealish elected to represent the Three Lions, Rice is still yet to make a decision on his international future.
The fact that these young players are choosing to represent other countries, is only damaging to the future of the team. Consequently, this is limiting their options for call-ups even further. This could result in inexperienced individuals being included in any future squads. Whilst these players are promising, they might not yet be ready for international football.
The Irish FA will surely need to appoint a man who is able to see the future vision of the team, and is capable of selling it to these young players.
So, who are the favourites to be appointed?
As it stands, current Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny is the favourite to take over. The 47-year-old has been in charge of the League of Ireland Premier Division outfit since 2013 and has won four league titles in his time at the club. He is certainly a man who knows how to win matches, and could be the perfect fit.
Another contender according to the bookies is Mick McCarthy. Having already taken charge of the company before between 1996 and 2002, he had a successful period with the country, leading them to the 2002 World Cup. They were eventually eliminated by Spain in the first knockout round via a penalty shootout. Boasting the third-best win percentage of all full-time Republic of Ireland managers, he could well be a popular choice considering his knowledge of the set-up in the Irish FA and the success he enjoyed during his first stint in charge.
Whoever is appointed as Martin O’Neill’s successor, they have a large task on their hands; turning around the form of a country that have been on the wrong course for some time. It is crucial, then, that the Irish FA spend time finding the right man for the job.