Wednesday 28 September 2016

Martin O'Neill side-steps questions over potential Hull City approach

Published 06/09/2016 | 07:22

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Reuters / Marko Djurica
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill Reuters / Marko Djurica

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill refused to be drawn on rumours that he has been approached to take over at Hull City, as he insisted he was focused on his current job after watching his side claim a 2-2 draw against Serbia in their opening World Cup qualifier.

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A late goal from Daryl Murphy - his first at senior international level - saw Ireland scramble a point after they fell behind following a second half Serbia fight back that threatened to derail Ireland’s World Cup ambitions at the first hurdle.

Yet it was the rumours linking O’Neill with the vacant job at Premier League side Hull that was the focus of attention after the game, as he was quizzed by Sky Sports.

“I don’t think anything of that,” said an evasive O’Neill, who quickly tried to change the subject of the interview. “I am delighted that we have got off the mark here in what was a very difficult game for us.”

When pressed to clarify whether he would be interested in taking over at Hull, O’Neill appeared to be a little agitated as he insisted he will sign the contract he has agreed with the FAI to continue as Ireland boss.

“There will really be no hiccups there, we should have got it sorted,” he said. “In fact, we have shaken hands on the deal quite some time ago.”

So long as the contract is not signed, speculation will continue to mount over O’Neill’s future, yet he did not give the impression that he had taken charge of Ireland for the last time as he gave an upbeat assessment of their World Cup qualifying hopes.

“We are away from home, start of the World Cup campaign and we have got off the mark,” he added.

“We would have taken a point at the start of the game and we could have taken all three. Shane Long had a good chance and if we had taken that, we might have taken a win, but it is good to get a point.

“We took an early lead and defended strongly after that. The referee didn’t help us with some of his decisions. He booked two of our players early and should have booked a few more of theirs as well.

“Their penalty looked soft. I have not seen it back, so there is no point in commenting on it, but if the referee deems it is a penalty, there is not a lot we can do about it.

“Daryl Murphy came on and scored a great, great goal. He is off the mark now and it will give him great confidence. I am really very pleased.”

Must-win games against Georgia and Moldova are next on the agenda for Ireland and by the time the first of those games is played on October 6th, we will know whether O’Neill’s links with Hull are more than just speculative.

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