Meet Heimir Hallgrimsson, the Icelandic dentist who is now Republic of Ireland manager

Heimir Hallgrimsson during his time as Jamaica boss
-Credit: (Image: Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Heimir Hallgrímsson is a dentist. He is also half of Icelandic football's greatest double act with former Swedish international Lars Lagerbäck.

The duo guiding the minnows to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016. Four years earlier, Iceland won just of eight qualifiers for Euro 2012.

And, after 231 days of searching for Stephen Kenny's successor, Hallgrímsson is Ireland's new manager. Those who suggested the national team required root canal work to turn things around may not have been expected such a literal response from the FAI.

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“That is, in Iceland, probably my main job, and has been,” Hallgrímsson laughed when asked about his dentristry work in the Westman Islands, the remote southern coast archipelago with a population of just over 4,000 where he was raised.

“For a coach it sounds strange, I know. When I was doing my pro license in England, they said, ‘Don’t tell anyone you’re a dentist!’ But I never think that education can do you any harm. I’m proud of being a dentist.”

Ireland fans will be scratching their heads over an appointment that has taken far too long and has delivered a name unfamiliar to many after the previous links with Lee Carsley and a host of others, and after John O'Shea did the job on an interim basis not once, but twice, since March.

Hallgrímsson comes from a humble background in football terms. He played for local club Íthróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja - mercifully, they're better known as ÍBV - before taking charge of the women's team, and later the men's side. Under his guidance, the team reached the Europa League qualifying stages three times on the bounce.

KSÍ - Iceland's FAI - took him on board as Lagerbäck's assistant in 2011 before they became joint managers in 2013.

And what Hallgrímsson did, in partnership with Lagerbäck, was to guide Iceland to victory over England in the last 16 of Euro 2016. His first game in charge will be against the same opposition at the Aviva Stadium on September 7.

“It doesn’t matter who we play or what the score line is, we try to never change our priorities,” said Hallgrímsson during those championship finals.

“We do not think of ourselves as a small country in these moments. We know we don’t have the individual players of Holland or Turkey. We win on unity and hard work and organization, and we have to be better than everyone else in these areas.”

Perhaps that will ring a bell with long-suffering Ireland supporters.

Hallgrímsson also took solo charge of his national team after Lagerbäck stepped away after that championship. Iceland qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time two years later - he resigned his post after the team failed to progress beyond the group stages.

By December, he was on his way to Qatar as head coach of Al-Arabi and, in September 2022, he returned to international football with Jamaica.

Heimir Hallgrimsson has been appointed as Republic of Ireland manager
England's Wayne Rooney and his team-mates after defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016

“Coming from Iceland, the heat doesn't go hand in hand,” he said after settling into the role. “Luckily, I’ve always had a strange personal thermostat, so I’ve been good with that! Probably the easiest job in the world would be to be a weatherman in Jamaica, because it is always the same, always amazing.

“I spend most of my time in Jamaica. Ever since I got the job, I thought it was very important to learn about the people and the culture. The people are welcoming, laid back, so it's easy to get to know them. Back home and in Europe, things can be stressful and chaotic. Here, nothing is a problem for them. There are also beautiful beaches and beautiful nature. It’s a great place to be.”

For a while, anyway. His time with the Reggae Boyz ended late last month after a disappointing Copa América campaign - to Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Next up, Dublin's chilly summer. If he has done a deep drill down into what is needed to turn around Ireland's decaying fortunes (sorry), Hallgrímsson will know the extent of the task now facing him.

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