'New dawn' as Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane sign on

Qualification for 2016 European championships new duo’s first priority

New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane working for ITV last night in San Sebastian. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane working for ITV last night in San Sebastian. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have signed two-year contracts with the FAI who have an option to renew in the event the pair successfully guide the Irish team to the European championships in France in 2016.

With the association wary, perhaps, that the media’s interest in the Corkman might make the actual manager something of a sideshow at his own press conference, the northerner will be officially unveiled alone around midway this Saturday in Dublin, while Keane heads to his game in England as part of his new role.

John Delaney hailed the appointments as “a new dawn” for Irish football but the pair have been left in little doubt about what is expected of them.

“I think to qualify for the Euros,” Delaney said when asked what their task will be, “unless some crazy Henry handball comes back to revisit us. That’s what we want. We don’t want to make up the numbers, we’re there to qualify for major tournaments.”

He expressed confidence, however, that, given his reputation for outstanding man management, O’Neill is the perfect candidate to achieve the goal.

“He did wonders [at Wycombe, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa] and got the best out of the players available to him. That’s one of the key characteristics for this job.”


Round of interviews
The FAI chief executive, who did an extensive round of broadcast interviews on Tuesday, said it was normal for a new manager to come in by himself and lay out his plans. “There’ll be plenty of time for Roy to be interviewed at subsequent stages.”

The pair will make their first appearance in Dublin together on Monday evening when they take training for the first time.

A squad of 27 players, whittled down from the 40 or so whose clubs were informed last Friday they might be required, will be selected by Noel King on Wednesday.

O’Neill will take the session, at least in part, because the line up of his backroom staff has yet to be finalised.

Delaney expects to have further discussions on the subject on Saturday morning “but I think he’s making up his mind there and having conversations with different individuals.”

The new manager seemed upbeat on television last night about having Keane on board, observing he feels the long time Manchester United star will be “great for me and more importantly, great for the Republic of Ireland.”

He joked: “I’m the bad cop, and he’s the bad, bad cop.”

The Corkman, meanwhile, said he was “excited” about coming to work with the team and trying to help it qualify for the Euros; there was no mention of the fact he will be working for an organisation he has repeatedly derided as inept and amateurish.

Delaney, with whom Keane has had something of an ongoing feud, insisted the pair have buried the hatchet and resolved to work together after meeting twice last week, then talking another couple of times on the telephone.

“It was professional and businesslike,” said Delaney of their initial conversation. “What happened is in the past . . . we sorted it; it’s over. We agreed that the past is the past.”

He said he had said immediately it was “no problem, no problem at all” when told of O’Neill’s desire to hire Keane.


Volatile nature
Pressed on whether Keane’s notoriously volatile nature might prove an issue in the future, Delaney expressed confidence that it would not.

“That is for Martin to manage. Martin is the manager and Roy is his assistant. The manager works with his backroom staff, be it his goalkeeping coach or assistant, and I think Martin will manage that relationship. Certainly the Roy Keane that I met last week impressed me.”

As for what precisely Keane’s role will be, he said that was something for O’Neill himself to clarify. “Different managers will us their assistants in different ways,” he remarked. “I think he’ll explain what he wants Roy to do.”

Cruciallly, he insisted, the pair will make a good team and will do things a little differently to the way they were done under Giovanni Trapattoni.

“The enthusiasm I got from both of them, not just to attend matches in England but also to attend some League of Ireland games, to help with the coaching courses for coaches in Ireland, to attend underage international matches . . . I think we’re going to see a different approach to the job under Martin.”


Declined to comment
Delaney declined to comment on the cost of the appointments, which is believed to slightly exceed €2 million per annum combined when everyone is thrown in, but he acknowledged that Denis O’Brien would again be paying a substantial part of the bill - a fact reflected, perhaps, by the fact his first interview of the day was with one of his radio stations, Newstalk - while Dermot Desmond’s “support and advice” had apparently been “crucial” to the process.

He said that any effect the appoints had on gate receipts from the Latvia game and beyond would be welcome but added: “the first objective is success...if we fill the Aviva off the back of it then that’s great.”

Like most everyone else, he expects the next two years to be interesting he says. “Life is not black or white, it’s always a bit in between and this new era for football will bring exciting times but difficult times too; that’s what football does. Football is a rollercoaster but this is going to be a rollercoaster that most of the Irish public are looking forward to.”

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