A former pupil of St Columb’s College in Derry has emerged as the favourite to be the next manager of the Republic of Ireland football team.
Martin O’Neill, who attended the Derry school as a boarder in the 1960s when it was located in Bishop Street (now Lumen Christi), has been out of work since being sacked by English Premiership team Sunderland towards the end of last season when he was replaced by controversial Italian Paulo di Canio.
The Kilrea man’s installation as Irish boss would be welcomed by Irish fans who have fallen out of love with Trappatoni. But it is in Derry where Republic supporters cannot wait for the Italian to leave the post. They are still angry at how former Derry City favourite James McClean was treated by the Italian during last year’s European Chamionship finals.
Trappatoni (74), who took a pay-cut to earn £1 million-a-year after Ireland’s dreadful showing at last year’s Euro finals , is clinging on to power with Irish World Cup dreams in tatters after their costly defeat at home to group rivals Sweden on Friday night.
The former Italy and AC Milan coach is refusing to walk out on his contract, which is due to end next June, even though he admits they are now playing for third place in their qualifying group.
After a successful playing career, during which he won the European Cup with Nottingham Forest, O’Neill has managed Grantham Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic. Aston Villa and Sunderland.
He guided Leicester City to the Football League Cup final three times, in which he was twice victorious, in 1997 and 2000.
In his time as Celtic manager between 2000 and 2005, he led the club to three Scottish Premier League titles and the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville.
O’Neill (61) has, in the past, been tipped to manage the England international squad as well as Manchester United. However, with Roy Hodgson looking set to lead England to next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil and former Everton boss David Moyes installed as manager at Old Trafford, the Republic of Ireland job looks like one O’Neill cannot afford to turn down.