Former Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has emerged as favourite to replace Republic of Ireland’s embattled coach Giovanni Trapattoni.
The 74-year-old who took a pay-cut to earn £1million-a-year after Ireland’s dreadful Euro 2012 finals campaign 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.

Ireland face Austria in Vienna Tuesday night and could still technically qualify ahead of their opponents and the Swedes as runners-up to group leaders Germany.

But with a trip to Munich next month where Trapattoni will be eager to take the Irish team after also coaching there previously with Bayern Ireland’s chances of reaching the November play-offs now seem remote.

O’Neill who has been out of work since he was sacked by Sunderland in March is understood to be the FAI’s preferred choice to eventually replace Trapattoni when he does go. Former internationals Roy Keane and Chris Hughton and ex-manager and captain Mick McCarthy are also in the frame.

But former Ireland international Niall Quinn has warned that simply replacing Trapattoni is not the only answer to the malaise which has struck Ireland who have failed to qualify for the World Cup Finals since McCarthy took them to Japan and South Korea in 2002.