Sunday 25 September 2016

O'Neill close to extending contract for World Cup campaign

John Fallon

Published 10/12/2015 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who were jointly presented with the Philips Manager of the Year Award
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, who were jointly presented with the Philips Manager of the Year Award

Martin O'Neill's new contract could be finalised by next month after the Ireland boss admitted he's looking beyond the European Championships next summer.

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The Derryman, who was yesterday jointly-awarded the Philips Manager of the Year prize along with Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill (right), also feels his assistant Roy Keane will stick around for the World Cup qualification campaign kicking off next September in Serbia.

Between last month's play-off win, the wedding of his daughter Alana on Saturday and the Christmas break, O'Neill insists talks on new terms will ratchet up in January.

"Genuinely, we haven't done anything (about the contract)," said O'Neill. "I was in a euphoric state after we qualified. Then I came back for the wedding that I had to concern myself about and now there is Christmas.

"But I think we will get a few moments in January to sit down. There is no immediate rush.

"Do you think I want to give up my place at the Euros? There is a reasonable mind of all people to have a look a bit beyond.

"Regarding Roy, I absolutely want him here for the Euros and if we continue on, who knows? I might be wrong but I don't think at this minute he is any mad rush to clear off."

As the focus turns towards the 23-man squad for the Euros, O'Neill lauded the return from injury of Harry Arter for Bournemouth's weekend win over Chelsea whilst reiterating that Everton pair Aiden McGeady and Darron Gibson must start getting game-time to guarantee their seats on the plane to France.

"Harry is a player that wants to get on the ball and make things happen," he said."That's great for us. Naturally, we'll need all the ability that we possess because it (the Euros) may well be a different game to the one we've been used to.

"I can't go into the summer carrying players who have maybe played just two or three games, I certainly cannot carry a host of players doing that.

"From January on in, players have got to be thinking about playing matches.

"People like McGeady and Darron Gibson have to play. Aiden's goal last year against Georgia, to me, was as important a goal as Shane Long's against Germany.

"He has the ability but his best games under me were when he was properly physically fit."

Meanwhile, both O'Neills are open to the prospect of arranging an All-Ireland friendly next summer in the lead-up to the Euros.

"If the two Football Associations think it is right and it aids both of us in terms of preparations, then why not?," said Michael O'Neill about the possibility.

Elsewhere, St Pat's have beaten off competition from Shamrock Rovers to sign brothers Billy and Darren Dennehy from Cork City.

Heading to Leeside, however, is striker Sean Maguire, the Ireland U-21 striker who spent most of last season with Dundalk having being released by West Ham.

Irish Independent

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