Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane deal to be sealed by Tuesday

Backroom team takes shape as FAI commits €2m in hope of capturing public imagination


Martin O’Neill could be confirmed as Ireland’s new manager over the coming 24 hours, with FAI officials apparently keen to have the deal concluded before the Northerner and his prospective assistant, Roy Keane, appear on television together tomorrow night.

The pair will be in Spain together working for ITV at Manchester United’s Champions League game against Real Sociedad and with nothing now expected to prevent them taking up their respective posts the association is understood to want the situation finalised as soon as possible.

The FAI have effectively signed off on the appointment at this stage with the bulk of the association’s board members holding an informal meeting immediately after yesterday’s FAI Cup final in the Aviva Stadium to approve the terms of the deal that has been struck with the O’Neill since the end of last week.

A full, more formal board meeting will apparently not be required as it has been decided that its position had been set out more than a month ago when it resolved that should O’Neill be interested in the position then every effort should be made to hire him.

O’Neill’s decision to include Keane on the ticket has caused surprise amongst board members but the view is that he is entitled to make his own call on the matter.

The fact that both men are due to fly to Spain today has made the logistics of the situation a little more complicated and it is while O’Neill is believed to be fully committed, the 61-year-old is apparently less concerned about when the contract signing takes place.

All of the major details of the new regime’s terms and conditions appear to have been worked out at this stage and while it is believed there are some minor loose ends to be addressed, there seems to be no fears of things falling apart at this stage, even with Chris Hughton’s somewhat precarious position at Norwich giving rise to the possibility that O’Neill might have Premier League possibilities on the horizon.

Initial two-yeart deal
The former Northern Ireland player has agreed to take the job on what is likely to be an initial two-year deal with an option to continue for a further two that may be directly linked to qualification for Euro 2016.

He will be paid in the region of €1.2 million with Keane, it is believed, on something much closer to €500,000 and roughly €300,000 to be split apparently between Steve Walford, former Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Séamus McDonagh and possibly, it has been suggested, Steve Guppy, all of whom have extensive experience of working with O’Neill before. Combined bonuses of close to €1 million will reportedly be paid if the Irish team qualifies for France.

It emerged last night that Mike McGurn is also likely to be a part of the management team with the fitness and strength coach, who has extensive experience of working at elite levels, most notably with the Irish rugby team and a couple of inter-county sides, said to have agreed to come on board.

The line-up reinforces the widely held feeling that Keane will provide a sounding board for O’Neill while helping with the assessment of players as well as the planning and organisational side of things but that neither will be overly involved in the actual coaching front. McDonagh’s involvement, if it is confirmed, will mean the exit of current goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly, the one survivor up until this point of the Trapattoni era.

McDonagh played 25 times for Ireland back in the early 1980s and has spent much of his recent career working alongside O’Neill at the likes of Leicester, Aston Villa and Sunderland. There will be no John Robertson, however, with the Scot preferring to stay away from the game for the moment in the wake of a heart attack a couple of months ago.

Mutual understandiing
There appears to be a mutual understanding, meanwhile, that Keane and the FAI officials he has long been so scornful of will not to have to deal directly with each other too much. John Delaney and the former Manchester United star are bound to have to grit their teeth and get on with it a few times over the coming weeks but for the most part the Corkman will answer to O’Neill who will, in turn, account to Abbotstown.

Reaction to the impending appointments has been mixed with most affected players, predictably enough, positive while others in the game have admitted to some surprise and other observers have acknowledged the potential for Keane’s involvement to end badly.

“I am surprised, yes,” Celtic boss Neil Lennon, who knows both men well, said yesterday. “I didn’t realise that there was a connection between the two of them before now. They are two interesting characters, two great personalities. They have a vast knowledge of the game. They are two proud guys. God help the players!”

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