Next Ireland Manager – The Contenders

With the end of the Stephen Key era confirmed, thoughts now turn towards his successor. We look at ten contenders for the position of next Ireland Manager.

1. Lee Carsley

Image: Irish Examiner

Former Ireland midfielder Lee Carsley was capped 40 times for his country and was a member of the 2002 World Cup squad. His playing career included stints at Derby County, Blackburn Rovers, Coventry City, Everton, and Birmingham City. Beginning his coaching career in 2011, Carsley had caretaker spells in charge of Coventry, Brentford, and Birmingham, before he became England under 20’s coach in 2020. Carsley was elevated to the England under 21’s job within a year and he led them to triumph in the European Championships in 2023.

2. Neil Lennon

Image: The Independent

Lurgan native Neil Lennon has a wealth of managerial experience, across spells at Celtic, Bolton Wanderers, Hibernian, and Cypriot side Omonia. As a player Lennon won two League Cups with Leicester City and five Scottish Premier League titles and four Scottish Cups with Celtic. As Celtic Manager Lennon won ten trophies across two spells (including five Scottish Premier League titles). He also oversaw Hibernian’s promotion to the Scottish Premiership and entry into the Europa League. His last trophy was the Cypriot Cup during a 29-game spell at Omonia. The 52-year-old will surely be itching for a return to the dugout.

3. Roy Keane


One of Ireland’s finest ever footballers, Manchester United legend Roy Keane (capped 67 times for his country) has featured heavily in discussions about Stephen Kenny’s replacement, although he has not been the main man at a club since he left the Managers job at Ipswich Town in 2011. Keane served as Martin O’Neill’s assistant during his term as Ireland Manager, helping the boys in green reach the last sixteen at Euro 2016. Currently a high-profile pundit on Sky Sports, it remains to be seen if Keane is interested in a barnstorming return to front line management.

4. Damien Duff


100 cap Ireland centurion Damien Duff enjoyed a stellar playing career with Blackburn Rovers (winning the League Cup), at Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea (winning two Premier League titles and one League Cup), Newcastle United and Fulham. Since hanging up his boots, Duff started off his coaching career at Shamrock Rovers underage sides, before progressing to first team coach. Then followed a spell at Celtic (under Neil Lennon) as reserve team coach and then first team coach. In April 2020 Duff was announced as Assistant Manager of Ireland senior team (under Stephen Kenny). He stepped down in January 2021. In November 2021 Duff was appointed as the first team manager of Shelbourne. Doing a stellar job as Shels boss, he is adored by their fans and has secured European football at Tolka Park for next season.

5. Anthony Barry

Image: Wales online

After a nomadic playing career at clubs such as Coventry City, Accrington Stanley, Wrexham, Fleetwood Town and Forest Green Rovers, Anthony Barry began his coaching career in 2017 as Assistant to Paul Cook at Wigan Athletic. In the summer of 2020 Barry joined Chelsea as first team coach. In February 2021 he replaced the departed Damien Duff in Stephen Kenny’s Ireland coaching team (combining the role with his job at Chelsea). During his time with Ireland Barry was credited with having a substantial contribution towards a change of formation and an upturn in Ireland’s performances. In February 2022 he left to join Belgium, lured by the opportunity to compete at the World Cup. In March 2023 he re-joined Roberto Martinez as assistant for the Portuguese national team. Barry performs this role in tandem with a coaching role under Thomas Tuchel at Bayern Munich.

6. Steve Bruce

Image: Express and Star

Former Manchester United stalwart Steve Bruce began his playing career with Gillingham, before joining Norwich City (winning the League Cup in 1985). In 1987 he moved to Manchester United and had remarkable success under legendary manager Alex Ferguson, winning twelve trophies, including three Premier League titles. In a storied managerial career (in which he has taken charge of eleven clubs) Bruce holds the distinction of having managed both Newcastle and Sunderland, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa and Birmingham! Bruce has been out of work since he left West Bromwich Albion after a poor start to their 2022/2023 season.

7. Hervé Renard

Image: Sports Mob

Hervé Renard is currently in charge of the French women’s national team. He has had an interesting coaching career, as Manager of the Zambian national team he won the 2012 African Cup of Nations. He also won the same competition with the Ivory Coast (becoming the first coach to win the competition with two different countries). Renard has also managed Angola, Morocco (at the World Cup in 2018) and Saudi Arabia in 2022 where he famously led them to a 2-1 win over eventual World Cup winners Argentina. Interestingly he had a brief managerial spell in England – in charge of Cambridge United in 2004.

8. Brian Barry-Murphy


A former Ireland under-21 international player, Brian Barry-Murphy played as a defensive midfielder. He began his career at Cork City before spells at Preston North End, Southend, and Hartlepool (on loan), Sheffield Wednesday, Bury and Rochdale. Barry-Murphy was appointed Rochdale’s caretaker manager in March 2019 (after Manager Keith Hill resigned). Since 2021 he has managed the Manchester City Elite Development squad.

9. Chris Hughton


Ireland legend Chris Hughton (winner of 53 caps) spent most of his career playing left back at Tottenham Hotspur. After brief spells at West Ham and Brentford. Hughton then stepped into the dugout at Tottenham Hotspur from 1993-2007 (taking in roles as under 21’s manager, reserve team manager and Assistant Manager). In his time at Spurs, he worked under eleven managers including Ossie Ardiles, Gerry Francis, George Graham, Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat and Martin Jol). As a manager in his own right, he started his managerial career at Birmingham City, before a spell at Norwich City. After Norwich he became manager of Brighton and Hove Albion, leading the club to promotion to the Premier League. After a brief period in charge of Nottingham Forest, Hughton joined the Ghana National Team as technical advisor. He is currently Head Coach of the Black Stars and is due to take charge of the team in this winter’s African Cup of Nations.

10. Ralph Hassenhüttl

Image: Yahoo

Dubbed the “Alpine Klopp,” Hassenhüttl was born in Graz in Austria and began his playing career at GAK. He transferred to Austria Wien in 1989, winning three successive Bundesliga titles and two Austrian Cups. He moved to Austria Salzburg in 1994 before spells at Mechelen and Lierse in Belgium and FC Köln, SpVgg Greuther Furth, and Bayern Munich II in Germany. Hassenhuttl played eight times for the Austrian national team and scored three goals. As a manager he has taken charge of SpVgg Unterhaching, VfR Aalen, FC Ingolstadt 04, RB Leipzig, and Southampton. A proponent of Gegenpressing, Hassenhuttl is a coach who insists that his players work hard. He demands that his players press, think quickly, and play the game with a high tempo.

So, who would your choice be? Have we omitted any of your preferred candidates? Let us know in the comments!


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