Wednesday 22 October 2014

Business as usual for O'Neill

Published 05/06/2014 | 00:02

Roy Keane

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill jetted out to the United States on Wednesday insisting it was business as usual after holding on to assistant Roy Keane.

The 62-year-old Ulsterman was delighted at Keane's decision not to pursue Celtic's interest in him as their new manager, which he revealed on Monday after days of speculation that he was bound for Parkhead.

Keane has since been linked with a role at Aston Villa, working alongside Paul Lambert in conjunction with his Republic duties.

However, as O'Neill prepared to cross the Atlantic ahead of friendlies against Costa Rica and Portugal, he was a happy man.

Asked about Keane's decision, he said: "I'm naturally very pleased and delighted that he's done so. Maybe we might just get on with things now.

"It's obviously good news for us, for everyone concerned, I think. The players in particular are delighted, and so are the rest of us.

"I think that he has enjoyed it here immensely - that obviously plays a part in his thinking. I'm sure there were quite a number of factors, but that was pretty important too.

"At this minute, he is enjoying it - he has just got started - and hopefully that might continue."

O'Neill is well aware that Celtic's interest - he revealed last week that the 42-year-old had held informal talks with the Scottish champions - is unlikely to be the last approach for Keane.

O'Neill said: "Celtic is a great club, it's a fantastic club. In the future, he will have loads of offers, as he has had in the past and in the immediate past.

"Things like this here will crop up again, with a wee bit of luck. I'm not saying Celtic will, but that type of job will."

Indeed, the link with Villa is evidence that Keane remains a man in demand.

That said, O'Neill for one is drawing a line under that particular topic until after he and his assistant have run the rule over the players in the Republic's remaining summer friendlies.

The former Celtic and Sunderland manager said: "I wish I could predict the future - I might be in better shape than I am.

"But everything now at this minute is on the back-burner in terms of all speculation, all that type of stuff. I don't really want to continue on with this until we come back from the United States."

Keane's presence within the Ireland set-up was designed to give them a higher profile, but the former Manchester United captain has found himself in the headlines repeatedly since accepting O'Neill's offer of work in November last year.

But the manager insists he can handle the interest his number two has sparked.

O'Neill said: "Actually, it isn't really a problem to me. It will happen again, there's no doubt at all about it, and I will deal with it accordingly at that time, or Roy will deal with it accordingly."

In the meantime, the pair will attempt to put together teams to face the Costa Ricans in Philadelphia on Friday night and the Portuguese in New Jersey four days later, having been hit by a series of withdrawals.

Ciaran Clark has a niggling knee problem and has not travelled, and the same applies for fellow defenders John O'Shea, Seamus Coleman and Damien Delaney, while striker Jon Walters is recovering from a virus which at one point left him on a drip in hospital.

Walters' condition has improved markedly since and he, like full-back Stephen Ward, who is nursing a knock, could join up with the squad ahead of the Portugal game.

Press Association

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