Thursday 21 September 2017

O’Neill and Keane dream team is a done deal, says FAI chief Delaney

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will soon be working together in the Ireland set-up
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will soon be working together in the Ireland set-up
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane

THE appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as the new Ireland management team is a case of "job done", according to FAI chief executive John Delaney.

The FAI confirmed this morning that talks with the pair were at an advanced stage, with John Delaney going on to say he hopes to make a formal unveiling of O'Neill as head coach and Keane as his assistant on Saturday.

The experienced O'Neill was installed as the immediate favourite to replace Giovanni Trapattoni as soon as the Italian left the post in September, with the decision to choose Keane as his assistant the surprise.

The Ireland captain has had a volatile relationship with the FAI and infamously walked out of the 2002 World Cup without kicking a ball after the Saipan training camp fiasco.

The past is now being put to bed, though, with Delaney saying Keane was O'Neill's man and that he is happy to abide by that.

"I don't see any impediment to that (signing contracts) happening. I hope that this Saturday, this coming Saturday, there will be an unveiling of our new management," he told Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

Describing the pair as "two great icons of Irish soccer", Delaney added: "He (O'Neill) asked what the association's view would be about Roy being considered and I said absolutely no problem."

“The Roy Keane I met last week impressed me. Please God with this appointment we will make Irish football successful again.

Referring to Keane's past criticisms of Delaney, the chief executive said: "People would have known Roy and I wouldn't have had much contact in the past, because he was a player with the team, I was probably treasurer."

“Anything Roy or I would have said to each other now is irrelevant. Last week we met twice and it was all about the future. The past is in the past. Anything that happened in the past is in the past.

“We discussed the past for about 30 seconds. It was all about the future. We talked how two great icons of Irish football can work for the future and good of Irish football.”

The figure to seal the deal is rumoured to be in the order of €2m but Delaney refused to comment.

Keane's reintegration should be smoother considering he is O'Neill's pick.

The former Aston Villa boss was identified as the FAI's primary choice within days of Trapattoni's departure following the defeats by Sweden and Austria which effectively ended Ireland's hopes of making it to next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil.

However, the FAI has allowed the 61-year-old, who has been out of the game since being shown the door by Sunderland in March, to take his time over his decision.

In the meantime, former Ireland international Ray Houghton and high performance director Ruud Dokter were charged with the task of assessing alternative candidates.

But all along, the power brokers have been hoping for a positive response from the Ulsterman, and things have moved on apace since he gave the first indications that he was ready to commit himself to Ireland.

Keane, of course, enjoyed a distinguished international career with Ireland, but fell out spectacularly with then manager Mick McCarthy as they completed their preparations for the 2002 World Cup finals in Saipan and returned home without kicking a ball in anger.

Time appears to have healed any lingering wounds and there is little doubt that a link-up between two men who as individuals enjoy popular support will capture the imagination of fans who became disillusioned with Trapattoni's conservatism once results began to elude him.

The 74-year-old spent five and a half years at the helm with businessman Denis O'Brien providing a significant proportion of the funding - he will continue his financial support - and that investment initially paid dividends.

Trapattoni guided Ireland to a play-off clash with France and only William Gallas' goal, which came courtesy of Thierry Henry's infamous handball on a controversial night at the Stade de France, denied the team a trip to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

The Italian went one better in the following campaign when he safely negotiated a path through the play-offs to take his team to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

But as fans travelled in their thousands in hope of a repeat of previous heroics on the big stage, Ireland were overwhelmed by Croatia, Spain and Italy and returned home without a point to their name.

Undaunted, Trapattoni embarked upon the qualification process for Brazil with an unconvincing win in Kazakhstan, but a 6-1 demolition by Germany at the Aviva Stadium left him fighting for his job and although he survived another 11 months, the writing was on the wall.

O'Neill and Keane, who also had a spell in charge of the Black Cats, will launch their reign with a friendly against Latvia in Dublin on November 15, when the FAI will hope the public vote with their feet by turning out in force, before heading for Poland four days later.

The serious business will begin in September next year when Ireland set out on the road to Euro 2016 hoping they can once again compete for a place at the finals of a major tournament, the mission assigned to their new managerial duo.

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