Ireland interim manager John O'Shea will take charge of his first game managing his country as Belgium visit Dublin to kick off two home friendlies for the Boys in Green as a rebuilding phase starts.

Following the decision not to renew the contract of Stephen Kenny in November 2023, a lengthy process started to find a new manager and with the Football Association of Ireland still unable to decide on a new manager, O'Shea took charge on an interim basis for the March friendly games against Belgium and Switzerland.

The man who boasts 121 appearances for his country has never been in the hot seat before, previously coaching at Reading, Stoke City and Birmingham City alongside assistant roles within the Irish set up.

  • "Myself and my family are really proud"

Famously scoring the injury time goal that secured a point away at world champions Germany en route to qualifying for the 2016 European Championship, the Waterford native spoke about representing his nation at different levels.

“It’s an incredible honour, managing your country," he said. "To get the chance to represent Ireland from under 15 onwards at all the levels then captain your country and now to get the chance to get involved coaching with the under 21s and the senior team, and now being a manager - it’s amazing and myself and my family are really proud.”

  • Managing a squad he knows well

O'Shea worked under Stephen Kenny as assistant manager after being appointed in February 2023, therefore knowing this crop of talent well.

“No one’s surprised me, I know the group well," he admitted. "The staff got eyes on players for the first time in the flesh… there’s a freshness to it, seeing a couple of new staff members, a couple of new players as well - you have that freshness to it and a relaxed atmosphere but also a proper learning curve in terms of what we’re going to be looking for to do the job against Belgium.

Speaking about his squad, the interim boss confirmed that he would announce the team to the players a day prior to the game in order to focus on finer details.

He revealed that “The players will know today (Friday) at some stage what the team will be, I think that’s important as you can focus on a few more finer details and then that’s when you come to the crunch time of final preparation and final details and then getting everyone on board because that’s what we’ve spoken about from day one with the two games.

"We'll have plenty of players playing and plenty of substitutes needed to finish the game as strong as you start it. The good thing is there are good players in form so it’s a nice problem to have in a few positions.

  • Settling into the role

“(It’s been) amazing, really good," O'Shea admitted about his first foray into management. 

With less than a month to prepare for his first game in charge as well as bring in some new staff members in a mini backstage reshuffle.

"I think (the enjoyment of the role) has been helped by the support staff I’ve had around me too and ultimately the players. I think they’re the key to it so if they’re buying into it and obviously showing the desire and attitude, the application, to be aggressive and take things on and show that in training.

  • Ready to take on Belgium with high intensity

Intensity was high on the list of priorities for the former Manchester United defender with a tough test against the side ranked fifth in the world coming up.

“I’ve played under different managers who’ve played at different levels and you’re trying to get a connection with the players as soon as you can to make them feel relaxed as they’re the key to everything," he said.

"They’re the key to performing, they’re the key to winning matches and you just have to get that connection with that group - whatever team is selected they’re backing themselves up and (Belgium is) a type of game where with the intensity that is needed we’ll be making changes at different stages that will hopefully maintain the strength of the team to maximise that intensity for the full 90 plus minutes.”