Neil Lennon has emerged as a shock favourite with the bookmakers to replace under-fire Stephen Kenny as the manager of the Republic of Ireland men’s football team.
Kenny recently earned himself a reprieve as Ireland secured a 4-0 victory over Gibraltar in their latest qualifier for the 2024 European Championships in Germany.
However, with his contract expiring after their last group game against the Netherlands and a friendly against New Zealand, Kenny is living on borrowed time.
A defeat against the Dutch would actually create a back door route to Euro 2024 for Ireland, with play-offs connected to the Nations League rankings still in play.
Regardless of whether Ireland are handed a second chance, Kenny’s time in charge of the national team will likely end after the New Zealand game.
Gibraltar are the only team Ireland have defeated during the qualifying campaign – a record that has led to widespread calls for Kenny to be axed.
England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley has been touted as a potential replacement, but prising him away from the Three Lions set-up would not be easy.
With numerous other candidates failing to inspire Irish fans, online bookies have made Lennon the favourite to take over from Kenny.
Several new betting sites in Ireland rate the former Celtic boss as a 7/4 shot to be appointed, just ahead of Steve Bruce who is available at 4/1.
Carsley is also priced at 4/1, and he would undoubtedly be a popular choice with Irish fans having enjoyed success at U21 level with England.
Lennon’s managerial reputation has gone south in recent years, with the former Northern Ireland international failing to live up to expectations during his second spell with Celtic.
He subsequently managed Omonia Nicosia in Cyprus, but lasted less than a year after winning just 11 of his 29 games in charge of the club.
With his coaching credentials declining, Lennon would be an extremely risky appointment for an Ireland set-up in desperate need of some fresh ideas.
Kenny has overseen a transitional period with the national team, introducing several talented youngsters into the senior squad.
However, he has struggled to deliver results throughout his tenure and the current Euro 2024 qualifying campaign has been a massive disappointment.
While Ireland were not expected to trouble France or Netherlands in Group B, their failure to take any points off Greece scuppered any hopes of them causing an upset.
After losing 2-1 in Greece in June, Ireland were expected to make home advantage count in the reverse fixture. A 2-0 defeat ended their automatic qualification hopes and effectively ended Kenny’s hopes of being offered a new contract.
Having initially shaken up the squad when he was first appointed, Kenny has been reluctant to make further changes in recent months.
This week’s Championship Team of the Week paints an intriguing picture for Ireland fans, with five players included who could feature for the national team.
Four of them – Sammie Szmodics, Andrew Moran, Finn Azaz and Marcus Harness – are yet to play for Ireland, despite regularly showcasing their talent in the English second tier.
Many Irish fans think Szmodics and Azaz have been harshly treated by Kenny, and he has been heavily criticised for developing a blind spot where they are concerned.
Given the manner of the recent defeat against Greece, Kenny’s refusal to select players who would add some flair to the squad is baffling.
The 51-year-old has admitted the results against Greece were not good enough, but praised the players he selected for the way they bounced back against Gibraltar.
“I understand the Greek results – I understand that,” Kenny said. “Losing to Greece, that’s a 50-50 game. We lost it. There’s a lot of criticism because of that.
“That’s okay. There’s also been a lot of good football that people shouldn’t forget either. We’re disappointed having lost the game on Friday.
“To put that behind them and to train and get themselves ready in a professional way and then work the openings for the goals in a very clever way, it made the finishes easier.
“The players deserve credit because it was a professional job on the night – a good performance. We could have got a lot more goals.”
Ireland round off their qualifying campaign against the Netherlands on November 18, before hosting New Zealand in a friendly three days later.