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Keane, Duffer and Mohan: 6 candidates to replace Noel King as Ireland U21 manager

The FAI are looking for a new U21 manager after Noel King departed his role after eight years in charge.

Robbie Keane, Lee Carsley, Damien Duff and Tom Mohan.
Robbie Keane, Lee Carsley, Damien Duff and Tom Mohan.

1. Tom Mohan

THE FERMANAGH NATIVE has turned a lot of heads for his impressive tenure in charge of both the Ireland U17s and U19s over the last number of years, overseeing a promising generation of talented young players including Troy Parrott, Adam Idah and Michael Obafemi.

A former Finn Harps, Longford Town and Derry City midfielder, Mohan spent time under former Ireland underage boss Sean McCaffrey as a player before also working under McCaffrey as a coach while attaining his Uefa ‘A’ licence.

The 44-year-old worked as Development Officer for the FAI in Cavan and completed his Pro Licence in 2014 after being appointed Ireland U17 boss in September 2012.

Tom Mohan Tom Mohan is the current Ireland U19 manager. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Mohan was promoted to U19s manager in April 2016, succeeding Paul Doolin, having led the Ireland U17s all the way to the European Championships in 2015 where the Boys in Green exited at the group stages.

A rising young manager who has been highly praised for maintaining an attractive style of football while gaining results, Mohan’s U19s side have enjoyed a 100% record in their recent qualification phase for next year’s European Championships — recently defeating Holland 2-1.

2. Lee Carsley

A former Ireland midfielder who earned 40 caps for his country before retiring from international football in 2008, Carsley has been hailed as one of the most promising coaches in English football in recent years.

Since hanging up his boots seven years ago, Carsley has enjoyed extensive coaching experience at all of Coventry City, Sheffield United, Brentford, Manchester City and Birmingham.

The 44-year-old obtained his coaching badges as his playing career came to a close while at Everton and immediately took his first coaching position straight after retirement — firstly as Coventry’s U18 manager and then as Sheffield United assistant boss in the summer of 2013.

England U21 v Andorra U21 - UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifying - Group 4 - Proact Stadium Lee Carsley was previously employed as England's U21 assistant manager. Source: EMPICS Sport

He was sacked alongside manager David Weir in October 2013, but soon after enjoyed extensive experience in the England underage set-up, being appointed as be a full-time “out of possession” coach for all the England sides between U15 and U21 level.

In August 2016, Carsley was hired as Manchester City’s U18 manager, where he led the Blues to an FA Youth Cup final and to the top of the North Division of the Professional U18 Development League 1.

In-between Coventry, Birmingham and England, he also spent time as Development Squad manager for Brentford, most recently returning to Birmingham as Head Professional Development Coach — a position he held until March 2018 when he left alongside senior boss Steve Cotterill.

Gary Breen is highly in favour of his former team-mate taking over from Noel King. He told Off the Ball last week: “Lee Carsley is the guy who you should identify as someone to get for the Ireland U21 role. They should be banging his door down.”

3. Robbie Keane

Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer, a former captain and arguably one of the greatest players to ever pull on the green shirt, 38-year-old Keane has expressed interest in going into coaching and management over the last couple of years.

Enjoying a brilliant career at clubs from Wolves and Inter Milan, all the way to Tottenham, Liverpool, Celtic and LA Galaxy, Keane’s credentials as a ruthless goalscorer and experienced Premier League striker could be invaluable to the Irish set-up.

Republic of Ireland v Oman - International Friendly - Aviva Stadium Keane made his final appearance for Ireland in August 2016 and has been reported as a candidate to replace Noel King. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Keane scored 68 goals in 146 appearances in the green shirt, playing at the World Cup and at two European Championships. The Tallaght native most recently lined out for Indian Super League side ATK, where he was taken on as player-manager for a short spell.

Recent reports have suggested Keane is a contender to take over from Noel King, with the former Ireland captain due to undertake his Uefa Pro Licence this winter. 

4. Colin O’Brien

Like Tom Mohan, Colin O’Brien has been identified as an ambitious, rising coach within the FAI having taken the Ireland U17s all the way to the quarter-finals of the European Championships in May.

A former Cork City favourite who won a league title at Turners Cross in 2005 and an FAI Cup in 2007, O’Brien enjoyed a successful League of Ireland career both for Cork and later at Cobh Ramblers.

He was employed as City’s commercial manager at just 23-years-old and made over 200 appearances for the club, where he also overcame a life-threatening injury and was named in the Cork City Supporter’s Hall of Fame.

Colin O'Brien stands for the national anthem Colin O'Brien (right) led Ireland's U17s to the quarter-finals of the European Championships in May 2018. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The former winger took his first coaching role in the FAI in 2008 and was appointed as Ireland’s U15s manager in October 2013 having previously acted as assistant to Niall Harrison for three years.

The Cork native has also worked with the U17 international squad as opposition analyst and worked closely with the FAI’s Emerging Talent Programme.

Since then, the 43-year-old was taken on as U17 manager where he led a promising young Irish side all the way to the final eight of this year’s European Championships, led up top by Tottenham prospect Troy Parrott, who netted three goals.

Cruelly, O’Brien’s side exited at the quarter-final stage during a controversial penalty shoot-out to the Netherlands where Preston’s Jimmy Corcoran was bizarrely sent off during the shoot-out.

5. Damien Duff

Like Robbie Keane, Duff is one of this country’s greatest ever footballers in modern times, making 100 appearances for Ireland during a memorable international career where he scored at the 2002 World Cup and helped the Boys in Green qualify for the European Championships a decade later.

Duff simultaneously enjoyed a stellar club career at sides like Blackburn, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Fulham, later spending short spells at Melbourne City and Shamrock Rovers, where he now coaches the Hoops’ U15s in the SSE Airtricity League. 

Damien Duff Damien Duff is currently Head Coach of Shamrock Rovers' U15 team. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

During his final season at Tallaght Stadium, Duff took on the role with Rovers’ U15s side while also working alongside FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter with the Ireland U15s in 2016.

Over the last two seasons the 39-year-old has been Head Coach with the Dublin club’s U15 side, in a number of recent interviews outlining his love of coaching down at the club’s Roadstone complex, while also assisting Rovers’ first-team squad alongside Stephen Bradley and Glen Cronin.

6. Kenny Cunningham

The former Ireland and Birmingham City captain completed his Uefa Pro Licence eight years ago and has expressed an interest in going into management in recent years.

He made 72 appearances for Ireland between 1996 and 2005, most recently coaching within the Ireland U19s.

Last month the 47-year-old was linked with the vacant job at League of Ireland side St Patrick’s Athletic, however the Inchicore outfit opted to hire former Bray Wanderers boss Harry Kenny instead.

Kenny Cunningham with Cristiano Ronaldo Cunningham battles for possession alongside Cristiano Ronaldo during a friendly in 2005. Source: ©INPHO

The player was appointed Ireland captain by Mick McCarthy in 2002 and made over 500 appearances in English football during spells at Millwall, Birmingham City and Wimbledon.

Cunningham has not had any experience in senior management since retiring in 2007, with the Dubliner working as a pundit for RTÉ Sport and also as an analyst for Off the Ball in the intervening years since hanging up his boots at Sunderland.

This week Cunningham was heavily linked with the absent managerial position at Derry City, following the departure of Kenny Shiels at the Brandywell.

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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