Robbie Keane's contractual arrangement with the FAI ends this summer. Ireland's most capped (146) footballer and top goal scorer (68) was part of Mick McCarthy's backroom team up until Stephen Kenny suddenly became manager in April 2020.
Kenny decided not to work with Keane, instead bringing Keith Andrews from the under-21s as assistant manager and hiring Damien Duff as coach. Duff stepped away in January 2021, in the wake of the FAI's videogate investigation, to be replaced by Chelsea first team coach Anthony Barry.
The highly rated Barry was recently head hunted by Belgium ahead of the winter World Cup in Qatar, but Kenny is hopeful of finding a replacement before Belgium visit Dublin for a friendly on March 26th.
“Last time we spoke, I said I’d agreed with Robbie not to talk about that publicly,” replied FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill when quizzed about Keane’s ongoing presence on the association’s payroll. “That’s between ourselves and Robbie in relation to his contract.
“I’d committed to Robbie that any conversation we’d have would be between us.”
Does Keane’s contract expire this summer?
“Yes, it does.”
When asked further about Keane’s current duties, as the 41 year old is believed to be earning a six figure salary, Hill added: “I understand your question but I’m not going to be drawn into it, publicly.”
Hill did state last July: “I think it is fair to say the situation around Robbie initially was not of his making. I personally don’t believe the association handled that situation particularly well. For that I was happy to apologise to Robbie in our conversations.”
Hill, who was sitting beside Kenny in FAI headquarters, after the pair concluded three months of negotiations around the senior management’s two year contract extension, was also pressed about a shirt sponsor to replace Three, after the telecoms firm ended its €1.8 million a year deal with the Irish team back in December 2019.
Hill, yet again, pointed to an uncertain market caused by the impact of Covid, Brexit and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Not only do we have negative business effects of Covid and Brexit, we were also playing international matches in empty stadiums,” said Hill. “That’s not easy to sell to any sponsor, particularly a new sponsor.
“I think it’s great that we have certainty with Stephen, and brands and sponsors will look at that degree of certainty that we talked about, and that will be an additional benefit to becoming involved with the senior team.
"I genuinely believe there will be a business that will come in and see everything that's happening with the senior men's team, and the quality of individuals within that, Stephen, the coaching team and players themselves. They are reflective of what's happening in Ireland at the moment and I do genuinely believe a brand or business will buy into that.
“But we have to be out there, to find the right brand, the right business, at the right time, to make a sizeable investment, in a market place and a business environment that is now, to a degree, affected by world events, if you like.
“We’ll keep talking and I genuinely believe we’ll find the right partner moving forward.”
As it stands, Ireland play March friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania without a shirt sponsor. Three invested €30 million into Irish football over ten years.