Former Ireland Stars Wade Into ‘Next Manager’ Debate

Former Manchester United and Ireland star Roy Keane is Townsend’s favoured candidate, although he acknowledged that the FAI may be reluctant to go down that route.

With Stephen Kenny’s time as manager of the Republic of Ireland men’s team coming to end, there has been plenty of debate about who will replace him.

Although he has overseen a transitional period with the national team, Kenny has found it difficult to deliver positive results in competitive matches.

Ireland have been underwhelming during their 2024 European Championship qualifying campaign, with two victories over Gibraltar all they have to show from their seven games in Group B.

Kenny will be in charge when Ireland visit the Netherlands for their final group match on November 18 and a home friendly against New Zealand three days later.

His exit will likely be made official afterwards, but his replacement is yet to be determined. Several online bookmakers have seen plenty of support for Neil Lennon to get the job, but numerous other managers are also in the running.

The sportsbooks linked to leading Irish casino sites cannot agree on who will win the battle to be appointed, with Lee Carsley and Steve Bruce among the other names whose odds make the viable candidates to replace Kenny.   

Damien Duff, Mark Kennedy and Chris Hughton have also been touted as possibles, while Gus Poyet and Sam Allardyce are other managers towards the top of ‘next Ireland manager’ market.

Former Ireland defender Richard Dunne has now waded into the debate about the position by urging the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to be braver with their next appointment.

He highlighted Kenny’s reluctance to allow his attacking players the freedom to express themselves and implored the FAI to appoint someone who will implement a more expansive style of football.

“The next manager needs to put a team out that is brave and that is free to play up the wings, to play long balls down the channels and get the ball out wide and cross it,” Dunne told Virgin Media.

“Normally in the last five minutes when we are 1-0 down we stick Shane Duffy up front – we get the ball wide and we cross it and it is exciting because people are in the box – there are loads of bodies in there.

“But when we play against a lesser team, we think we are too good to do that and have to knock the ball through (the middle).

“We don’t have any creative players in the centre of midfield – we don’t want the ball in midfield. We want the likes of (Josh) Cullen, (Jayson) Molumby and (Jason) Knight to win the ball back and knock it out wide to Mikey Johnston or (Chiedozie) Ogbene on the wing.”

Ex-Ireland midfielder Andy Townsend also wants the FAI to be bold when they choose Kenny’s successor to ensure the fans re-engage with the team.

Townsend claims Irish fans have fallen out of love with the national team and thinks the only way to get them back onside is by appointing someone who will bring more passion to the role.

Former Manchester United and Ireland star Roy Keane is Townsend’s favoured candidate, although he acknowledged that the FAI may be reluctant to go down that route.

“The hard part nowadays would be allowing him to do the job as he sees fit without interference,” Townsend told talkSPORT. “If that comes his way, that’s when he’ll be gone.

“He had his spell with Martin (O’Neill) already, from an Ireland point-of-view. As I mentioned, I think Stephen Kenny’s done now – there’s nowhere for him. It’s got so flat and so poor.

“People are now starting to become disinterested – the Irish football team has become insignificant. “You can’t have that – you’ve got to have someone in there who can start to get the fire in the bellies once more and get them going in the right direction.

“Someone like Roy Keane would absolutely do that, but would the FAI take him as a coach? I’m not so sure but they probably would.”