When the announcement came yesterday morning that Martin O’Neill and the FAI were to part company it was greeted with little surprise. Just like in politics sport rarely gives the opportunity to Managers to leave on a high and at a time of their choosing.
Sport can be a brutal environment in that there always needs to be a team fielded and a position filled. There have been kind words said about the highs of O’Neill’s tenure, critical ones of the last twelve months since Denmark went oh so wrong at the Aviva Stadium.
He will move on and will have financial security so that he can take his time. The FAI will also be moving quickly to appoint a successor. Ideally, there will be some clarity on who that might be in time for next week when the football world arrives in Dublin for the Draw for the group stages of Euro 2020.
If a full-time appointment is made in that short time frame it would need to be someone that could move quickly and not be currently involved in the hustle and bustle of active club management. Of those at the top of the list Mick McCarthy, possibly with Robbie Keane alongside would fit that bill.
So too would Stephen Kenny, fresh from a fourth SSE Airtricity Premier League title in five years and popular within the sport.
The other name in popular circulation is Chris Hughton but he is bound to Brighton at present and that might present difficulties with the Qualifiers taking place throughout the remainder of this season and into the start of next.
Whatever the appointment it will provide a lift to spirits of fans. It always does as was the case with O’Neill five years ago and Giovanni Trappatoni before him.
In our column for the Sunday Business Post this weekend we will be looking at the ‘State of the Game’ in relation to the FAI as it starts out on the path to a new managerial era and perhaps the most important couple of years in terms of its place as a European nation leading up to the hosting of four games in the Euro 2020 Championships, the whole tournament in the U17’s next year and potential bids for the U21 Championships in 2023 and perhaps even the FIFA World Cup in 2030.
Managers come and go. The game remains.