Who will be the next Ireland gaffer?

With Martin O’Neill’s position as Ireland manager moving closer to the brink than it’s ever been before over the last 48 hours, the question of who might succeed him — whether that’s sooner or later — has gained fresh momentum.

And, given the nature of this week’s developments, it’s a question which will hardly go away even if Quique Sanchez Flores pips the Derryman to the Stoke job.

Among the most talked about contenders are the following.

Mick McCarthy

As a former Ireland skipper and manager, he might seem like he’s been around forever but McCarthy is still only 58.

Has done well to keep Ipswich competitive yet some of the fans at Portman Road are never slow to vent their feelings about the plain-speaking gaffer when their side hits a sticky patch.

There is a section of the Irish support too for whom McCarthy will forever be tainted by Saipan but, as the manager charged with the thankless task of following the Charlton era, he confounded expectations that he would be no more than the ‘son of Jack’ with his style of football and, in the impressive performances he extracted from his team under difficult circumstances at the 2002 World Cup finals, underlined the respect he commands from players.

Chris Hughton

Right man but, unfortunately, wrong time.

An outstanding feature of his suitability for the job is his extensive international experience as both an Ireland player and assistant to Brian Kerr when he was the man in charge.

With Brighton currently just below mid-table in the Premier League, his stock as a club manager in England continues to hold firm and, unless things were to change considerably on that front between now and the summer — and if the FAI were prepared to wait that long to make an appointment — the reality is that the most desirable successor to O’Neill appears unattainable in the short-term.

Stephen Kenny

Whether the FAI would have the appetite to bring in a manager from the League of Ireland after two successive marquee appointments is very debatable but that Kenny’s name continues to feature prominently in many wishlists is a reflection of the game-changing impact of his success with Dundalk at home and, especially, on foreign fields.

His commitment to achieving results through an expansive and creative brand of football would be welcomed as a refreshing change, while the number of League of Ireland graduates in the current senior squad means his lack of international and big club experience outside Ireland should not prove an impediment to commanding respect in the dressing room.

Michael O’Neill

The near-namesake alternative. Northern Ireland want him to stay, Scotland want to prise him away and it would be a surprise if the FAI weren’t to give him serious consideration too.

Like Stephen Kenny with the Lilywhites, O’Neill capped domestic success with Shamrock Rovers by making Irish football history in leading the Hoops into the Europa League group stage.

But the Northerner boasts the massive advantage of having already proved himself at international level by leading Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and, more recently, falling just short of repeating the feat for this year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

Neil Lennon

His deep ties to Celtic as both captain and manager would make the Hibs boss a very popular choice with many Irish supporters.

Would do things his own way but has never hidden his respect for Martin O’Neill’s style of management. Lennon is currently enjoying success with the Edinburgh club who lie fourth in the SPL.

The Dark Horses

It’s worth bearing in mind Giovanni Trapattoni didn’t feature in any of the initial ‘likely lad’ speculation when the hunt began for a successor to Steve Staunton so it’s always possible a contender will come out of nowhere in the course of the succession stakes.

But, for now, the bookies are content to price up a host of familiar names, including all of the above.

Other current prominent runners and riders: David O’Leary, Martin Jol, Owen Coyle, Alex McLeish, Brian McDermott, and Paul Lambert. And, after that, as many more as you might care to throw a euro at…


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