Irish football fans could use a pick-me-up after enduring a torrid year that saw their team fail to qualify for the 2024 European Championship in Germany.
The Republic of Ireland national football team won only three of their ten matches in 2023 – a record which led to manager Stephen Kenny’s sacking.
However, nestled within the disappointment lies a flicker of optimism. A new year brings fresh possibilities and a renewed chance for Irish football to rediscover its magic.
Here are five wishes for Irish football in 2024 – dreams that could set the stage for a transformative year with a bit of luck!
A Fresh Start with After the Dismal Kenny Era
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) dismissed Kenny after three years in charge of the national team that barely yielded notable results.
The affable Dubliner delivered just 11 wins in 40 matches as Ireland failed miserably in their quest to qualify for major tournaments.
Ireland did not travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup and were never in the running to make it to Germany this summer.
The FAI rightly let Kenny go after an unremarkable spell in charge and have begun searching for a new manager ahead of friendly matches in March and June.
The next Nations League campaign starts in September 2024 – which is an opportunity for the new boss to lay down a marker.
Irish football fans will be desperately hoping they get the right man for the job through the door as soon as possible.
The new manager must possess tactical expertise and the ability to galvanise a team that has tasted bitter disappointment in recent times.
Make the Right Managerial Appointment
The FAI is yet to decide on the man to lead Ireland into its new era, although there are some interesting names on their radar.
Wales hero Chris Coleman is a popular choice after reaching the semi-final of Euro 2016. Interestingly, he left his position after suffering defeat against Ireland in 2017.
However, despite several underwhelming stints since then he is the leading candidate to take over the Irish national team according to online bookmakers in Ireland.
The best betting sites have handed him odds of 3/1 to be appointed, although better value may lie elsewhere in a wide-open market.
Former Chelsea and Bayern Munich assistant manager Anthony Barry has been given odds of 7/2 to take the job after impressing with his resume.
He was part of Chelsea’s backroom staff that clinched the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel, and the German took him to Bayern, where they won the Bundesliga.
The 37-year-old has also had stints with national teams, acting as an assistant with Ireland, Belgium and Portugal. He lacks senior managerial experience but could be worth a punt.
England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley is also a prospective candidate after leading the Young Lions to their first European Championship win since 1984, beating Spain in the final.
Hungary manager Marco Rossi, former Irish international Keith Andrews, Nottingham Forest first-team coach Steven Reid and West Bromwich Albion and Scotland first-team coach James Morrison are also in the running.
Give Sammie Szmodics a Chance to Prove his Mettle
Blackburn Rovers star Sammie Szmodics has been a shining star this term, bagging 16 goals and three assists in 25 Championship outings.
Szmodics was eligible for Hungary, England and Ireland. He chose to represent Ireland, qualifying through a grandparent. However, he has struggled to feature.
He received his first call to the Irish squad in 2021 but missed out on debuting in friendlies against Andorra and Hungary after suffering a recurring shoulder injury.
Smzodics was not with the Ireland squad again until his call-up last October, and he subsequently withdrew from due to personal reasons.
Many Irish fans were baffled that the Rovers midfielder had not been selected earlier by Kenny and they are keen to see the new manager give him a chance to prove himself.
The former Peterborough United star has looked a class act in the Championship and Ireland cannot afford to overlook players with his ability.
Embracing the Youthful Revolution
Ireland has a wealth of young talent coming through including goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, Nottingham Forest defender Andrew Omobamidele and Brighton & Hove Albion striker Evan Ferguson.
These youngsters represent the future and integrating them alongside experienced veterans such as Seamus Coleman will create a dynamic blend.
Ferguson is undoubtedly the headline name among that group, and the team should be constructed to maximise the threat he poses to the opposition.
Watching this new generation blossom would be a joy for Irish fans and could lay the foundation for success over the next few years.
Rebuilding Belief, One Step at a Time
Restoring faith in Irish football will not happen overnight. It will require patience, perseverance and a commitment to progress from everyone involved.
Every positive result, glimpse of exciting talent or step towards a cohesive playing style should be celebrated.
The fans, media and players must create a positive atmosphere that fosters belief and fuels a collective desire for success.
Even the most glorious journeys begin with single steps and everyone connected to Irish football must collectively embrace that ethos.