Republic of Ireland coach Mick McCarthy has emergedas the strong favouritre to succeed Peter Reid as manager if Sunderland.

Bookmakers in England have stopped taking bets on McCarthy being appointed, so confident are they that he will be appointed the new boss at the Stadium of Light.

Cathal Dervan, the ghost-writer of McCarthy’s forthcoming autobiography, also claimed McCarthy topped the short-list.

“My information from Sunderland is that Mick is indeed on top of their list,” Dervan told BBC Radio Five Live.

McCarthy could well work in tandem with Niall Quinn, a player-coach at Sunderand and a close ally of the Republic of Irelandboss at international level. As well as Quinn, McCarthy has managed several current Sunderland players for the Republic, including Jason McAteer, Phill Babb and Kevin Kilbane are also members of his international squad.

Any appointment would almost certainly have to wait until Ireland have played their EURO 2004 qualifier with Switzerland next Wednesday. It is inconceivabke, given the support he received from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) over the Roy Keane affair, that McCarthy would walk out of his present job at such short notice.

However, if McCarthy quit after the match with Switzerland, the FAI would have five months in which to find a suitable replacement as their next competitive game is not until March 2003.