Irish Soccer Managers
Republic of Ireland National Team Managers
To date there have been eleven permanent managers of the Republic of Ireland soccer team. Up to 1969 the national football team did not have a manager as we know the role today. The Irish team was chosen by a panel of selectors. In an attempt to instil a greater degree of professionalism into the international set up the FAI decided to appoint a manger to make team selections and to determine playing tactics.
Mick Meagan – First Irish Manager
The former Everton player Mick Meagan was appointed as the first manager of the Irish soccer team in 1969. Meagan was also a former international footballer that had represented the Republic of Ireland on 17 occasions. Ireland failed to qualify for the 1970 World Cup or the 1972 European Championships. In the latter qualifying campaign Ireland finished rooted to the foot of the qualification table.
Liam Tuohy spent most of his playing career with Shamrock Rovers however he did spend a couple of years on the books of Newcastle United in the early 1960’s. Tuohy also played for the Irish international soccer team winning eight senior caps and scoring four goals. He went into football management in 1964 when he took up the reins at Shamrock Rovers. Tuohy was still playing in the team at the time. In 1971 Liam Tuohy became the Irish manager while retaining his role as manager of Shamrock Rovers as well as holding down a full-time job as a salesman for a Dublin company. After just eleven international matches Tuohy resigned as manager due to the pressure involved in holding down the three positions. Despite some creditable performances Ireland had still failed to qualify for any major senior soccer finals.
Sean Thomas – Caretaker Manager
Following Liam Tuohy’s resignation the then manager of Bohemians, Sean Thomas, took charge of the Irish team for one match in a caretaker capacity. On 6th June 1973 Ireland played Norway in a friendly international in Oslo and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. Thomas had a very successful career as a club team manager in the League of Ireland winning the league With Shamrock Rovers in 1964. He also won the FAI Cup on three occasions with Rovers (2) and Bohemians (1), and the FAI League Cup once with Rovers.
John Giles – International Player / Manager
In October 1973 Johnny Giles was appointed as player / manager of the Irish soccer team. Giles had a very successful football career in England with Manchester United and Leeds United. Widely accepted as one of the greatest footballers ever to play for the Republic of Ireland international soccer team the appointment of John Giles as Irish manager was popular with Irish soccer fans. Despite some close calls and because of some decidedly poor refereeing decisions the long-awaited qualification for a major soccer finals continued to elude Irish soccer.
Alan Kelly Snr – Manager for One Match
Former Irish International goalkeeper became manager for one match on 29th October 1979 following the departure of John Giles. Kelly resigned after just one manage as he found it impossible to combine his Irish job with his role as manager of English club Preston North End. Kelly had played for Preston North End in England for 12 years and won the first of his 47 international soccer caps against England in 1958. His one and only international fixture as Irish manager was a home match against the United States of America. Ireland won the match 3-2 thus making him the only Irish manager with a 100% success rate.
After John Giles quit the post the FAI installed Eoin Hand as the Irish soccer team manager for the 1982 World Cup qualifying campaign. Ireland missed out on qualification on goal difference. This was the closest that the Republic had come to qualification for a major championships since the appointment of Irish managers began in 1969. In 1986 Eoin Hand was dismissed by the FAI following two disappointing Irish qualifying campaigns for Euro 1984 and the 1986 World Cup finals. Eoin Hand had played in England for Portsmouth FC and also won 19 caps for the senior Irish soccer team.
A golden era in Irish soccer was presaged by the appointment of Jack Charlton as Irish soccer manager in 1986. A former World Cup winner with England in 1966, Charlton delivered the Irish football holy grail by qualifying for the finals of a major soccer championship. Twenty two years after his World Cup success Charlton led the Republic of Ireland soccer team to the Euro 88 finals in Germany. Charlton ensured his legendary status with Irish soccer fans by leading the Irish soccer team to qualification for two successive World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994. Despite these successes he was often criticised by Eamon Dunphy and John Giles for his long ball tactics. Following a failed bid to qualify for Euro 1996 via a play-off against Holland in Anfield Jack Charlton resigned from his position as Irish soccer manager.
The next Irish soccer manager was Mick McCarthy who was appointed in February 1996. A former captain of the Irish football team English-born McCarthy played for Ireland 57 times. During his captaincy he earned the nickname ‘Captain Fantastic’ due to his robust no-nonsense performances. In his first qualifying campaign McCarthy’s Ireland side reached the play-offs for the 1998 World Cup but lost out narrowly to Belgium. Once again Mick McCarthy’s Irish team lost out on qualification for Euro 2000 in the play-offs on the away goals rule against Turkey. On the third time of asking Ireland, under McCarthy, made it through a play-off, this time against Iran, to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and Korea. It was during the preparations in Saipan for the tournament that the infamous row (commonly known as the Saipan Incident) between the Mick McCarthy, Irish manager and Roy Keane, Irish captain, occurred. Following a poor start to the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign Mick McCarthy quit as Irish soccer manager in November 2002.
Don Givens – Caretaker Irish Manager
In November 2002 Former Manchester United and QPR player Don Givens was appointed caretaker manager of Ireland for one match, a friendly against Greece. The result was 0-0. Givens is a former international who won 59 senior caps for the Republic. He is particularly famous for scoring a hat trick of goals against the former USSR in a football match that announced the arrival of Liam Brady to the international scene. Don Givens was to become caretaker manager for a second time in 2007.
Former youth teams manager, Brain Kerr, was appointed Republic of Ireland manager as a successor to Mick McCarthy. Kerr, a former manager of St Patrick’s Athletic, had enjoyed considerable success at under age level winning the the under 16 and under 18 European Championships in 1997. That year he also led the Irish under 20’s team to third place in the World Championship finals in Malaysia. Kerr was a popular choice as Irish manager with most soccer fans but because of the poor start in the qualifying campaign he found it impossible to lead Ireland to the Euro 2004 finals. Following a disappointing 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign in which Ireland finished fourth in a very tight group the FAI declined to re-appoint Brian Kerr as Irish manager.
In January 2006 former Irish international player Steve Staunton was appointed as Manager of the Irish soccer team. Staunton had enjoyed a very successful career as a player winning 102 senior caps, an Irish record. He came to prominence under Jack Charlton and quickly became a favourite with the Irish football fans. However it was a major surprise when Staunton was appointed as Irish manager as he had no prior management experience. Despite the presence of former English manager, Bobby Robson, in his management team Staunton’s reign as manager was something of a disaster. Despite a perfect start, beating Sweden 3-0 in a friendly first match, results very quickly went against the fledgling international manager. A particular low point was when Cyprus beat the Republic of Ireland 5-2. Further poor performances followed and Ireland failed to qualify for Euro 2008. In October 2007 the FAI terminated Steve Staunton’s reign as Irish soccer manager. Staunton has the unique distinction of having managed the last Irish team to play a match at the old Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium) and the first ever Irish international soccer team to play at the GAA headquarters Croke Park.
Don Givens – Caretaker Manager Once More
Following the dismissal of Stephen Staunton, Don Givens stepped into the role of caretaker Irish soccer manager for the second time in October 2007. Givens, manager of the under 21 team, took on this role until February 2008. He managed the senior team for the last Euro 2008 qualifier, a 1-1 draw with Wales and a friendly home international against Brazil. Ireland lost that match 0-1.
On 13th February 2008, in a surprise appointment, the FAI announced that Giovanni Trapattoni was to become the manager of the senior Irish soccer team. Reportedly businessman Denis O’Brien partially funded the Italian’s annually salary. The great Italian manager, who also played for footballing aristocrats AC Milan, had won the Italian league on seven occasions, the European Cup once, the UEFA Cup three times and the Italian Cup twice. In Italy he managed AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan. He has also won the top leagues in Germany (Bayern Munich), Portugal (Benfica) and Austria (FC Red Bull Salzburg). Trapattoni’s first match as manager of the Republic of Ireland was a home friendly against Serbia that ended 1-1.
In his first competitive campaign Trapattoni narrowly missed out on qualification of Ireland for the World Cup finals in South Africa. Ireland finished second in Group 8 of the 2010 World Cup qualification campaign earning the Irish a playoff against France. Ireland lost the home leg 0-1 however took the lead through Robbie Keane in the away leg in Paris. An infamous intervention by the hand of Thierry Henry lead to a conclusive equaliser by William Gallas and France won the tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s crowning achievement as the manager of Ireland was qualification for the Euro 2012 finals, via a playoff against Estonia. Unfortunately Trapattoni’s style of play and three comprehensive defeats at the finals led to clamours for the Italian to step down or be fired by the FAI. Nevertheless the FAI stood by their man and he led Ireland into the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. A disastrous 1-6 loss at home to Germany was compounded by a 1-2 loss at home to Sweden and a loss in Vienna against Austria. This was too much for the FAI to accept and Trapattoni vacated the Republic of Ireland manager’s position by “mutual consent” on 11th September 2013.
In September 2013 the FAI announced that there would be no immediate replacement for the departed Trapattoni and that the current Under 21 manager, Noel King, would take charge of the final two matches in Group C of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. King lost his first match 3-0 against Germany in Cologne. His second, and last match in charge was a 3-1 home win over Kazakhstan.
In early November 2013 Ulsterman Martin O’Neill was appointed as full-time manager of the Republic of Ireland. O’Neill was a former Northern Ireland captain and he had won the European Cup with his club, Nottingham Forest. He had been previous target of the FAI CEO, John Delaney, however Delaney got more than he bargained for when O’Neill insisted that Roy Keane should be part of his backroom staff. In the wake of the Saipan Incident Delaney and Keane did not have a good relationship. The appointment of this management team both excited and worried many Irish football supporters. How long could this volatile mixture remain stable? Notwithstanding any trepidation about the management team the new Irish set-up got off to good start with a 3-0 win against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium on the 15th November 2013.
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
John Aldridge – George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – Johnny Carey