I'll fight for Roy Keane to stay – Martin O'Neill
Boss determined to keep 'dream team' intact after Celtic interest
Martin O'Neill last night said that he would fight to keep Roy Keane as his assistant manager following an approach from Celtic, but conceded that the Corkman will be tempted by an opportunity that may not come around again.
After a day of speculation, the Ireland manager confirmed that the Hoops majority shareholder Dermot Desmond had contacted him earlier in the week to speak about Keane as a prospective replacement for Neil Lennon. That led to an informal chat between Desmond and the Ireland No 2.
O'Neill and Keane spoke about the matter yesterday morning, with the man-in-demand promising that he would keep the Derryman in the loop about developments. The Irish boss added that Keane also has 'a number' of other offers in the club sphere to mull over coming into the summer.
They will travel together to London today ahead of Ireland's friendly with Italy tomorrow evening, a game that is followed by a rest period before next Wednesday's flight to New York for the two-game US tour.
It is expected that Keane's future will be settled either way in that period. O'Neill, who last week said that he wouldn't stand in the 42-year-old's way – comments he made before receiving a call from Desmond – is desperate to keep hold of his high-profile assistant and the FAI share that sentiment.
However, both parties accept that the final decision may ultimately be out of their hands. The Abbotstown authorities do not intend to make an official comment on the matter until after London.
"I will do my very best, I'm going to do my very best," said O'Neill, when asked if he would be making a strong play to Keane to convince him that the Irish job is the right role for now.
"I would be very disappointed to lose him.
"But it's a very big job, obviously, and those kind of offers might not come around often."
"I want him to stay because I think it would be great, but then again, the idea that we only have X number of games during the course of the season.
"I've told you before myself, the thing that I found, that I knew I would do, going into international management is (missing) the day-to- day running of affairs.
"I am enjoying this immensely, but it's something that has taken me a little bit of time to get used to."
Celtic last night released a statement saying they were in discussions with a number of 'excellent' candidates.
"We will continue the process and select who we regard as the best appointment for Celtic," said the Glasgow side's statement.
It added: "We will update our supporters as soon as this process is complete."
Former Sunderland and Ipswich Town boss Keane signed a two-year deal with the FAI last November after being approached by O'Neill.