Analysing The Best Potential Candidates To Take Over From Martin O’Neill

It’s official. After five years and many highs and lows, Martin O’Neill’s tenure as Irish manager is over.

The coming months will no doubt bring about a rumour mill of who will replace the Derryman. There are a number of available options to Ireland with some more experienced than others. Many fans will be hoping for a youthful coach who has the tools to encourage a modern game.

Others will be hoping for an experienced head coach that can steady the ship and get the best out of what is a limited Irish cohort. Since Steve Staunton’s departure in 2007, there have been safe appointments with Giovanni Trappatoni and Martin O’Neill.

However, without the funds of times before, a more left field or inexperienced option may have to be considered. We have analysed the pros and cons of five potential candidates and offered a quick-fire list of more names that could enter the mix. 


1) Mick McCarthy


McCarthy is no stranger to the Irish set-up and led his country to the 2002 World Cup playing an enterprising style, possibly the most attractive ever played by an Irish side. In addition to this, the Yorkshire born boss has a history of getting the best out of limited teams.

Any club he has managed has plummeted in the years following his departure, most notably Sunderland, Wolves and now Ipswich.

McCarthy also had a good record of securing granny rule players like Matt Holland, Clinton Morrison, Gary Breen and Steven Reid to name a few. He is passionate and will be familiar with the current Irish crop given the close eye he keeps on the players available to Ireland.


Despite the enterprising style of the 2002 World Cup, McCarthy’s sides have set up similarly to O’Neill. A big fan of the 4-4-2, McCarthy has made the most out of limited resources but the style can be bland at times.

Having said this, it could be argued that he had teams just as weak as the current Irish side but the style would not be far off O’Neill’s. However, a bit of freshness and more of a hands-on approach by McCarthy could see another edge to Ireland.

INPHO/Tom Honan


2) Sam Allardyce


Like McCarthy, ‘Big Sam’ has a reputation of steadying ships. He began his managerial career in Ireland with Limerick and has a strong connection with the country whose national team job he interviewed for in 2005.

The former Bolton and West Ham boss was a popular appointment as England manager and morale seemed high in the squad before his controversial exit. Allardyce sets up solid teams and could add structure to this disjointed Irish team but he would likely receive a mixed reception from fans if appointed.



Like McCarthy and arguably O’Neill, his football is not pretty on the eye. Although progressive with his tactics and an excellent man manager, Allardyce is a lover of the long ball and has always brought statistics around the style when meeting his teams for the first time.

The fact his only international job ended under such tainted circumstances could also beg the question is he experienced enough at this level and also whether or not he will be the right man to restore harmony to a dejected camp.


3) Stephen Kenny


One of the most decorated manager in League of Ireland history, Stephen Kenny seems the most likely appointment to the Irish job. Kenny has won league titles and brought Dundalk from a relegation play-off to the Europa League group stages which speaks volumes about the Dubliner.

Michael O’Neill is a prime example of a League of Ireland manager who has succeeded at international level and given the attractive style Kenny encourages, he could be a popular pick.


Despite clamours for his appointment, Kenny has flopped when asked to make a step up, namely with Dunfermline and Shamrock Rovers.

The Irish job is a big one and Kenny would be following on from established names in Giovanni Trappatoni and Martin O’Neill. Still relatively young for a manager despite being on the circuit for nearly two decades, another candidate experienced with handling Premier League and Championship players could be considered more desirable. 


4) Lee Carsley


Lee Carsley is one of the highest rated coaches in British football right now and is the current England U-21 assistant manager. There has been a clamour of calls from fans for Carsley to be involved in the underage setup and he could find himself in the hot seat much earlier than he would have anticipated.

Some countries have reaped the benefits of appointing young ex-players and Ireland could do a lot worse than a man held in Carsley’s regards. Said to be a progressive coach and in his caretaker role with Brentford, deployed an attractive style.


Despite winning a Championship manager of the month award while at Brentford, Carsley has never held a permanent managerial position.

The likes of Ryan Giggs have shown that this step up can be made after experience as an assistant, but others like Steve Staunton have shown that an international job is a tough transition.

Given that the U-21 job is available, Carsley could be a good option as their manager with the possible combination of senior assistant, a role that has been shared in the past by many national teams.


5) Chris Hughton


Hughton seems to be the name every Irish fan would like to see in the hot seat, the only problem is that he is doing a splendid job at Brighton who are becoming an established Premier League side.

The former Irish international has managed to encourage a modern and attractive style with average players in each of his jobs and in a few years time could really challenge for a top club job.

Hughton would be the ideal appointment but it seems too good to be true. He has already worked for Ireland as assistant to Brian Kerr and a second stint could get the best out of the current crop.


It is hard to find any cons for Hughton. Any jobs he was dismissed from has been harsh and given his swift transition from assistant to manager, it seems he is a progressive and hardworking professional. 

As already mentioned, the main downfall would be securing his services. It is likely that there is a hefty clause to release the ex-Newcastle boss from his current contract which could be challenging without the aid of Dennis O’Brien.


Other quick-fire options

  • Harry Redknapp 
  • David Moyes
  • David O’Leary 
  • Paul Clement 
  • Sven Goran-Erickson 
  • Paul Cook, 
  • Neill Lennon
  • Bert Van Marwijk
  • Michael O’Neill
  • Guus Hiddink
  • Steve Bruce

Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena

Read More About: Ireland, Martin O'Neill, Top Story

Author: Nick Menezes

Nick is a soccer, GAA and rugby fanatic who has a worrying obsession with the Irish football team. His articles focus on Irish football and he also writes some light-hearted pieces, particularly quirky starting XIs. View all posts by Nick Menezes