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FAI insist new manager announcement on track for April

Football Association of Ireland president Paul Cooke has reiterated that the FAI expect to appoint a new senior men’s team head coach next month.

Speculation has swirled since November over who will succeed Stephen Kenny, with soon to be former Greece manager Gus Poyet and interim boss John O’Shea among many names linked to the vacant position.

FAI Director of Football Marc Canham said in early March that a deal was close but that “existing contractual obligations” meant there would be no announcement until early April.

Speaking after an FAI board meeting today, president Cooke said: “We got an update on the recruitment process for the men’s team manager.

“We’re on schedule for an April announcement. The [exact] timing is not certain at this moment in time.”

Cook declined to say whether O’Shea was in the running after he took charge of the friendlies against Belgium and Switzerland, adding: “We’ve narrowed the process well down. It will be revealed in April.

“We would be comfortable that the candidate will fit into our plan and processes going forward.

“The intention is that the manager will start as soon as possible.”

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O’Shea has indicated that he is interested in the job, however, speaking on The Ray Darcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 this afternoon, the Waterford man said he did not know what the FAI plan was at this time.

He said: “I didn’t want to get involved. I’ll be honest, because look, my full focus was for the two games. I wasn’t worried about seeing what was going to happen after these two games.

“All I can say is in terms of what we did the last couple of weeks, myself and the staff, and what we put together. And ultimately the key for me was the buy-in from the players and how they went about it too. It was really good and we really had a smashing time and let’s wait and see.

“It would be up for people that are in the hierarchy of the FAI for that to come about [appointing a manager].

“And hopefully they can get to this situation as quickly as possible because that’s the foundation the team needs.

“Those steps that we’ve put in place for the last two games and obviously since to be fair, that Stephen Kenny and Keith Andrews did as well, bringing younger players through.

“So it’s the case of building on that and hopefully getting us back to major tournaments as quickly as we can.”

FAI CEO Jonathan Hill

Cooke also refused to address speculation that chief executive Jonathan Hill’s position might be in in doubt, saying: “It was a scheduled board meeting where we discussed various matters.

“The meeting went very well. It was supposed to be last night but obviously we couldn’t meet last night with an important game at the Aviva. Normal business went on.”

There is a growing sense that Hill’s role as CEO has been weakened following the FAI’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee last month.

Cooke said then that his confidence in Hill had been “challenged”, although there was support from FAI chair Tony Keohane.

In December, appearing before members of the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Sport and Media, Hill apologised for the “unnecessary and unhelpful distraction” regarding his pay arrangements that led to a Sport Ireland investigation, and the temporary suspension of state funding.

Benefit in kind payments, that were subsequently repaid, were contrary to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between the FAI and Government, which led to the association’s bailout in 2020.

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