Thursday 19 October 2017

O'Neill admits he can't stop assistants taking up full-time offers

Martin O'Neill admits it could be difficult to keep assistant manager Roy Keane and coach Steve Guppy in the Republic of Ireland set-up, such is the interest from elsewhere in obtaining their services. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Martin O'Neill admits it could be difficult to keep assistant manager Roy Keane and coach Steve Guppy in the Republic of Ireland set-up, such is the interest from elsewhere in obtaining their services. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

With only Ciaran Clark, who is nursing a bad back, absent from training, there was an air of giddiness about Martin O'Neill as he contemplated the second leg of Ireland's end-of-season friendly series.

As he gets to know his players' strengths – and limitations – he is also becoming more familiar with the nuances of the international gig, from the necessarily brief time spent with his players to the focus on external forces.

Having dealt adroitly with the always lurking side-issue of player discipline, O'Neill was at least relieved not to have to indulge in any more diverting speculation surrounding Roy Keane.

At least, not too much. Keane for Tánaiste, Martin?

"Has he been linked with the Labour party?" the Derry man smiles. "I'd better let him know that. He's been linked with everything, every single day, so why not? We'll only spend half an hour on him again, alright?"

Intriguingly, though, O'Neill expressed an interest in persuading the two Steves – Walford, his long-time trusted sidekick, and set-piece specialist Guppy – to perhaps declare a firmer commitment to the Irish role.

Full-time offers from elsewhere may dissuade them from committing to what would essentially be part-time work with Ireland, but, with Keane always an inevitable link when certain other posts pop up, a contingency plan, should he ever leave, may be advisable.

O'Neill's inevitable circumspection naturally precludes him confirming this thesis, albeit he was willing to explore the nature of his new assistants' commitment.

"It's relatively straightforward. I've worked with Steve Walford, I know what Steve can do. He's come in at short notice, in the sense that I didn't give him a great deal of time to prepare. I said to him sometime earlier about maybe doing a little bit of work in the summertime. Steve has had some offers to go and coach elsewhere. I've worked with him for a long time.

"These roles would be part-time roles, so I would really have to look at those things.

"Stevie Guppy also has had an offer himself to go on a full-time basis.

"I think we kind of enjoy working with each other. But we'll see. I can't promise anything. Nor can I promise to keep people who can have a full-time job elsewhere.

"We'll see what happens after the summer."

Such is the nature of these extended periods during an international window. For those in charge, it seems too short, while for many beyond the inner circle, it seems too long. Even O'Neill had his initial doubts.

"Initially, I thought the length of time between the Italy game and the final game was an awful long time. Putting in the Costa Rica game made an awful lot of sense.

"Is there a benefit to being on the road? Absolutely. I know that if you're talking to the players, they've actually enjoyed it and the training. Days like this here are absolutely terrific. There have been no complaints."

O'Neill intends to keep it that way.

Irish Independent

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