Monday, July 22, 2024

Heimir Hallgrímsson is shock choice as Ireland end long manager search

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After a near eight-month search for a new national team men’s manager, the Republic of Ireland have made the surprise appointment of Heimir Hallgrímsson. The 57-year-old, a qualified dentist, is best known for being joint-coach – with Lars Lagerbäck – of the Iceland team that reached the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, most famously beating England in Nice on the way, and was most recently coach of Jamaica.

His predecessor, Stephen Kenny, was sacked in November after another Irish failure to qualify for a major tournament – their last such appearance was at Euro 2016. John O’Shea has been caretaker for Ireland’s four friendlies since then, even pulling off a June win over Euro 2024 finalists Hungary before a 3-0 loss to Portugal ended that tenure.

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The Football Association of Ireland’s director of football, Marc Canham, and chief executive, Jonathan Hill, both English, were tasked with finding the new man, before Hill resigned in April, the same month the FAI had previously declared the new appointment would be made. Lee Carsley, the former Ireland international who coached England Under-21s to winning last year’s Euros, was long viewed as the leading candidate but Canham, who led the process, could not tempt him.

Other candidates, such as Gus Poyet, most recently Greece manager, Roy Keane and Neil Lennon had been linked, as was Georgia’s Euro 2024 manager, Willy Sagnol, but the lengthy process eventually alighted on Hallgrímsson, whose Jamaica team competed at this summer’s Copa América but exited after three group-stage defeats. He also led Iceland to the 2018 World Cup finals, resigning after a group-stage exit in Russia.

“Ireland is rightly a proud footballing nation which has consistently produced talented players and enjoyed many memorable moments at major international tournaments,” Hallgrímsson said. “We have a young and exciting team that has genuine potential. I am looking forward to working closely with the players to help coach and guide them towards improved performances and results ensuring we qualify and compete at major tournaments on a regular basis.”

Canham said: “We are thrilled to announce Heimir as our new head coach.
Earlier this year, we identified Heimir as our number one candidate whose capabilities and experience aligned with our criteria. Not only does Heimir have significant experience at international level with two different countries, but crucially he also has a track record of qualifying for major international tournaments and taking teams up the Fifa world rankings.”

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