The best Irish football managers of all time - ranked

The Emerald Isle has produced some brilliant managers over the years
The Emerald Isle has produced some brilliant managers over the years / Ian Walton/Getty Images

Ireland has given the world so much, including reams of memorable football managers.

On both sides of the border, there has been heaps of coaching talent down the years. From League of Ireland title triumphs to memorable Premier League stints, the Emerald Isle has seen it all.

Can anyone beat Mick McCarthy? Let's find out.

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20. John Sheridan

John Sheridan manager of Chesterfield FC 2010
Sheridan knows the streets of Oldham very well indeed / David Ashdown/Getty Images

Sheridan is the epitome of a lower league journeyman manager. He has enjoyed spells at ten clubs so far and still has plenty of time to boost his average before retirement.

He seems particularly fond of Oldham Athletic, having four different stints there in total.

19. Roy Keane

Roy Keane
Terrifying / Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Keane's managerial ventures have not always worked out, but he did do pretty well at Sunderland. During his first season at the Stadium of Light he guided his side to the Championship title and he then kept them up in the Premier League the following season.

A poor spell at Ipswich Town - where he attempted to melt a journalist's brain with his eyes after his phone went off in a presser - and several assistant manager stints have followed since then.

18. Sean O'Driscoll

Sean O'Driscoll has managed Bournemouth, Doncaster Rovers and Nottingham Forest during his career
A fresh faced O'Driscoll with the Third Division play-off trophy / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

He has never managed in the Premier League but O'Driscoll will be a familiar face to fans outside the top tier. Starting out at Bournemouth, who he led to Division Three promotion during the 2002/03 season, he is best known for his five years at Doncaster Rovers.

While at the Keepmoat Stadium, he transformed Rovers into a solid Championship side on a shoestring budget. After leaving Doncaster in 2011, he had brief spells in charge of Nottingham Forest, Bristol City and Walsall.

17. Jim Gannon

Jim Gannon
Gannon has enjoyed two successful spells at Stockport County / Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Gannon is Mr Stockport County. Over two separate spells with the Hatters he has won a pair of promotions and also scooped the prestigious Cheshire Senior Cup.

When he's not been managing at Edgeley Park, he has managed Motherwell, Peterborough and Port Vale.

16. Brian Kerr

Brian Kerr
Kerr during his time in charge of the Faroe Islands / Dino Panato/Getty Images

Kerr may not have taken his country to a major competition, but he is the current holder of the Tim Sherwood cup, awarded to the Republic of Ireland manager with the best win percentage.

As well as managing the Boys in Green, Kerr has spent time in charge of St Patrick's Athletic and, intriguingly, the Faroe Islands.

15. Jack Kirwan

Kirwan enjoyed a fascinating life. Born in County Wicklow in 1878, he won an All-Ireland medal playing gaelic football for Dublin before turning his attentions to soccer. Starting out at Southport and then Everton, he won the FA Cup with Tottenham in 1901, before moving to Chelsea, Clyde and finally Leyton in 1909.

His managerial career was typically eclectic as well. He became Ajax's first professional boss in 1910, guiding them to the top flight and laying the foundations for the superclub they would eventually become. This was followed by two spells with Bohemians and Livorno.

14. Dermot Keely

Over the course of a 27 year managerial career, Keely won four League of Ireland titles with three different clubs.

Two of these wins, one with Shamrock Rovers and one with Shelbourne, were complemented with an FAI Cup triumph as well. He also had a 10/10 moustache.

13. Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Baxter managed Crusaders in a Europa League tie against Wolves recently / David Rogers/Getty Images

When Baxter took over Crusaders in 2005, the glory years of the 1970s and 1990s were a distant memory.

Since then Baxter has helped bring the good times back to north Belfast, winning three Irish League titles and a swathe of other honours in the 2010s. He remains in the hot seat today.

12. Pat Fenlon

Pat Fenlon
Fenlon took Hibs into Europe / Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Pat Fenlon was a serial winner during his time as a manager in Ireland.

At Shelbourne he won the league on three occasions in the early 2000s and the success kept on coming went he went to Bohemians. He also led Hibernian to back to back Scottish Cup finals. They lost them both. Ouch.

11. David Jeffrey

Former Manchester United trainee Jeffrey is a legend of Northern Irish football.

During his time in charge of Linfield between 1997 and 2014 he led the Blues to no less than nine Irish League titles, as well as seven Irish Cups and six Irish League Cups. After departing the Belfast giants he took over at Ballymena United, leading them to a maiden League Cup in 2017.

10. Stephen Kenny

Stephen Kenny
Kenny was named Republic of Ireland manager in 2020 / Harry Murphy/Getty Images

Kenny has not made the most inspired start to life as Republic of Ireland manager, but before he bored us all to death with zero wins from his opening eight games he carved out a fine reputation.

Kenny has managed a host of Irish Premier League sides, leading Bohemians to the title in 2003, as well as Derry City to a copious amount of cups during his two tenures at the Brandywell. He went to dominate the division with Dundalk in the 2010s, scooping up an impressive haul of trophies and manager of the year awards.

9. Jim McLaughlin

McLaughlin won League of Ireland titles in three different decades.

He led Dundalk to a pair of triumphs in the 1970s, finished top of the pile with Shamrock Rovers and Derry City in the 1980s and then was honoured in the 1990s with Shelbourne. These titles only scratch the surface of his impressive trophy cabinet as well.

8. Patrick O'Connell

O'Connell is widely recognised as the Irishman who saved Barcelona. It's quite a story. After enjoying a successful playing career in England he moved out to Spain to take over Racing Santander, leading them to five titles before La Liga was formed in 1928.

A spell at Real Betis followed before he eventually rocked up at Barcelona. Following the assassination of club president, Josep Sunyol, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, O'Connell took the team on tours of Mexico, Cuba and the United States, raising funds along the way to keep the club afloat. That brief synopsis by no means does this story justice, though. If you want to learn more, Sue O'Connell's book, The Man Who Saved Barcelona, is a great starting point.

7. Joe Kinnear

Joe Kinnear, Sam Hamman
Nothing like a Champagne bottle filled with Carling to celebrate a good month / Getty Images/Getty Images

Before he called Charles N'Zogbia 'Charles Insomnia', Kinnear worked miracles at Wimbledon. Despite operating on a tiny playing budget, he consistently led the Dons to top half Premier League finishes playing a brand of attritional football seldom seen at the top level anymore.

Suffering a heart attack in 1999, he stepped back from management for a while, popping up at Luton Town and Nottingham Forest before his infamous spell at Newcastle.

6. Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton
Hughton is a promotion specialist / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

If you want to get out of the Championship there's only one man to call. Chris Hughton.

Hughton has won promotion from the second tier with both Newcastle and Brighton, before being dismissed by both clubs after they made it to the big time. Long suffering Nottingham Forest fans will be hoping Hughton can repeat his magic for them.

5. David O'Leary

Leeds Training X
O'Leary spent four years at Leeds / Stu Forster/Getty Images

Before the whole thing exploded, O'Leary's Leeds United were some side. He was so good, in fact, he even inspired a video game baring his name, which was released on the Game Boy.

O'Leary also did pretty well at Aston Villa, before he decided that management was not for him anymore in 2006.

4. Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill is Stoke manager
O'Neill is currently at Stoke City / Athena Pictures/Getty Images

O'Neill is a miracle worker. Few fancied a nation as small as Northern Ireland to qualify for Euro 2016, but they did exactly that and even reached the round of 16.

Aside from his work at Windsor Park, O'Neill has also impressed at club level, leading Shamrock Rovers to back to back League of Ireland titles and also steadying the ship at Stoke City.

3. Roy Coyle

Coyle is the most successful manager in Irish league history. During a 15 year spell with Linfield he won a stunning 31 trophies, including ten league titles.

He was not done there though. After leaving the Blues he went on to collect 20 more pieces of silverware for Derry City, Ards and Glentoran.

2. Mick McCarthy

Mick McCarthy, Manager of Cardiff City
Mick's hair looking a bit wild it has to be said / Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

Sorry Mick, you have just missed out on top spot. Mr McCarthy needs no introduction. His football may not always be the most attractive, but boy does it get results - most of the time.

Big Mick has a pair of Championship titles to his name and also led his country to the 2002 World Cup, where everyone in the squad got along perfectly and there were absolutely no fallings out whatsoever.

1. Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill
O'Neill was much loved during his time in Glasgow / Stu Forster/Getty Images

Learning his trade under legendary manager Brian Clough, it is clear that some of Old Big 'Ead's magic rubbed off on O'Neill. O'Neill put in the miles in the lower leagues before being appointed Leicester City boss in 1995. One of the club's greatest ever periods followed with the Foxes making Wembley their second home with numerous play-off and League Cup final appearances.

He was eventually poached by Celtic where he secured back to back titles title for the Bhoys for the first time since the 1980s. He also did well at Aston Villa and okay at Sunderland, before a controversial spell in charge of his country.