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Saturday 21 September 2019

FAI pays up €1m to part company with O'Neill and Keane

Rush to find new boss as Euro 2020 draw nears

Robbie Keane. Picture: Sportsfile
Robbie Keane. Picture: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill knew his time as Ireland manager was up before a meeting with John Delaney to discuss his future.

And it's believed that the cost of parting with O'Neill, his assistant Roy Keane and the rest of the management staff, will cost the association in the region of €1m.

O'Neill was summoned for talks with the FAI hierarchy in the aftermath of Monday's deflating draw in Denmark.

It's understood that he came to the meeting prepared for the event that it would result in the thrashing out of a settlement.

The FAI has refused to comment on the agreement that was reached, which led to O'Neill departing by mutual consent.

He later released a statement through the League Managers Association in which he said he was leaving "with a heavy heart".

O'Neill was under contract until the end of Ireland's Euro 2020 campaign.

His annual salary was close to €2m - with bonuses on top in the event of qualification - and the annual cost of paying Keane, goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh and coaches Steve Walford and Steve Guppy was close to €3m.

Walford recently left his position.

There were fears last month that the association would have to pay up the full value of the contract to part with the team. But the FAI's loss of faith in O'Neill prompted urgent talks and negotiations with a view to parting ways.

The Derryman will remain tight-lipped on the resolution, but FAI sources have indicated that the settlement is a ballpark figure that is close to a third of the combined salaries - that would work out as a handshake worth around €1m.

O'Neill signed his new contract only in January amid interest from Stoke, with the FAI giving strong backing to the 66-year-old.

But in the last month, leading figures within the association decided that keeping him in the position would be too much of a risk.

There were concerns expressed about attendances at the Aviva Stadium, with complimentary tickets inflating the turnouts for matches in the latter half of a year when Ireland secured just one win in nine matches.

O'Neill's final game in charge was a 0-0 draw in Denmark on Monday, but it's believed that senior FAI officials had already decided on his fate by then.

Indeed, word that managerial change was imminent had spread among travelling fans in the hours leading up to the match.

The FAI wants a quick appointment ahead of Sunday week's Euro 2020 draw which takes place in Dublin.

Ireland will be a co-host for that competition and would play two matches in Dublin in the event of qualification.

Progression to that competition would be worth more than €10m to the FAI.

Former manager Mick McCarthy is the leading candidate to replace O'Neill and he is interested in the role.

McCarthy has been out of work since leaving Ipswich in April.

Robbie Keane is in the equation to work alongside McCarthy.

Ireland's record goalscorer was due to appear at FAI HQ last night at an event to launch the Beacon Hospital's new sports medicine programme.

But the organisers announced at the last minute that Keane would not be attending.

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny is another name in the mix, but the League of Ireland champions have not received an approach from the FAI.

It's thought that the FAI has tried to sound out if Kenny would be interested in becoming U21 manager, a post that is vacant after Noel King's exit.

But that role does not appeal to Kenny, who believes he is capable of becoming senior manager.

However, the FAI is aware it needs a quick fix as the first games for the new boss will be competitive qualifiers in March.

Irish Independent

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