AFTER much discussion about the division of training ground duties, both Roy Keane and O'Neill were involved in today's opening training session. “Roy wants to work with the players, so do I,” said O'Neill. “We had a little formula worked out beforehand. It wasn't rocket science or anything. Considering the length of the time that we'll have with the players, I'll learn more from the trip than I will during it.” O'Neill could yet add to his coaching staff so, in short, he'll sit down and figure out future plans when the dust settles on this double header. But it is apparent that we will be seeing plenty of his assistant interacting with the players and watching from close quarters.
The Reality of International Football
When the Derryman mulled over taking this job, he expected that it would take time to adjust his mindset to the alternative circumstances of international football. Aside from pursuing players who qualify through the parentage rules, he has to effectively deal with the hand he's been given and will only see them a couple of times per year. “It is a different scenario, yes,” said O'Neill, “After these two games, the remarkable thing is that the next match we have in March time. [Serbia, March 5] When we arrive back in Dublin from Poland next Tuesday, that's when it'll hit me that I'll not be with these players on Friday morning for instance.”
The Stephen Ireland Issue
Now that the exiled one is back playing regularly in the Premier League – and playing well – then O'Neill will always be asked about him. And he seems determined to end the talented midfielder's six year absence from the international scene, pointing out that the return of Keane suggests that everything is possible. “If Roy can come back, it's open for anyone,” said O'Neill, who set the wheels in motion to bring Ireland to Aston Villa without ever getting to work with him. “I do have an open mind. I haven't had a chance to see him play live for Stoke but that will be rectified in no time at all.”
Meet And Greet
The eagerness to make a good impression on the new management is evident in the fact that injured duo Robbie Brady and Anthony Pilkington are keen to come across and say hello. O'Neill has received medical reports from Hull and Norwich which indicate the games with Poland and Latvia will come too soon for the wingers. However, both are set to fly across to Ireland for a day or longer to introduce themselves and get a feel for what's going on. Ciaran Clark will not do so as O'Neill already knows him from Aston Villa
The issue of discipline was touched upon briefly in the broadcast section of O'Neill's musings. He quipped about giving the players some free time post-dinner on Monday evening. “The players, to a man, all stayed in the hotel,” he said. “I gave them the free time around 7.30, I told them the curfew was 7.45.” He also joked that Andy Reid, who fell foul of Giovanni Trapattoni, would be allowed to produce his guitar if he played it well. “At some stage, Andy will have to go to bed, won't he?” he added,”But if he played it until 5.30am – even if we won – I might be fed up with that.” The 61-year-old was speaking firmly with tongue in cheek during this section, but he does have more expansive views on the topic.