Men on a mission begin to settle in and start planning for Ireland’s future
Martin O’Neill will be exploring the ‘granny rule’ in the next few months
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane during Tuesday’s match in Poznan. Photograph: Inpho Donall Farmer/Inpho
Standing in the heart of the old East, Martin O’Neill may be the football manager who came in from the cold but he certainly wasn’t feeling the November chill in Poznan. The Derry man cut a conspicuously dapper note in his opening two games as Republic of Ireland manager, turning out in a smart suit on both occasions and spurning the winter overcoat.
“Honestly, I was not cold in either of the two games, not at all,” he said shortly before midnight on Tuesday in Poznan.
“Maybe it’s a bit of adrenaline but I was not cold.”
The sartorial dash was a complete departure from the traditional O’Neill sideline wear of tracksuit and sweatshirt. “I’ve had a look at it,” he laughed. I thought . . . ‘I will wear this, wear a tie.’ Just leave it with me. Don’t draw any conclusions.”
If the new look is significant of anything, it is that O’Neill is easing himself gently into the new waters of the international game.
The period around the 10 days has been hectic, from the jubilant FAI presentation to the more fundamental business of getting to know the players. When Paul Green was mentioned for his combative 90 minutes against Poland, O’Neill nodded before frowning slightly.
“Yeah, he put a shift in and he did have a really fine game,” he agreed. “I must admit I didn’t know a significant amount about him in that sense, not having had the opportunity to really study him at close quarters but he did really fine.
“Just on a general point, I think it’s really early yet for me to start making big assumptions on the team. We’ve played the two games, the home game which I’m delighted to have won but we’d have expected to have done so and this game here, it was a totally different game and we have come out of it unscathed in the end. We could create more, obviously, but from the general viewpoint I am pretty pleased. I will now get to see Green and quite a number of them over the next couple of months and I’ll be able to form a stronger impression.”
Now comes the weird part of the international game for O’Neill, who has spent all of his sporting life immersed in the cut and thrust of the English football season. His duties as Ireland manager leave him with several months to just watch his charges and to try and identify new talent.
Scouring league grounds
Unlike his predecessor, O’Neill intends to spend the winter scouring England’s league grounds before Ireland’s next match against Serbia in March. Although he told the players in the dressingroom that he might touch in with an occasional phone call – “Of course, they turned their backs and ran” – he reckons he will probably let them settle back into their club routine now and leave them be until Christmas.
In the longer term, he may go and visit players before club matches – if he gets a sense that it would be beneficial to them. “I don’t want to make a nuisance of myself but that is something I might do.”