O'Neill is keen for Roy to stay on with Ireland

Phillps Manager of the Year

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill (left) and Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill, who were jointly presented with the Philips Manager of the Year Award yesterday

Aidan Fitzmaurice

In the eyes of Martin O'Neill, Roy Keane is ready to return to club management after a four-year spell in exile.

But the Ireland boss, who plans to sit down with the FAI next month to check out the progress on talks about a new contract for himself, is holding out a hope that Keane will stick with his current post as O'Neill's sidekick beyond the Euro 2016 campaign and into the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

The O'Neills were the talk of Dublin yesterday as Martin and Michael were in town, jointly awarded the Philips Sports Manager of the year award for their feats in leading the Republic and Northern Ireland to qualification for Euro 2016.

The draw for those finals looms large next weekend but already thoughts have turned to France and the planning involved. Neither manager has ruled out the idea of a north v south clash in the build-up to the finals, especially as we know already that both nations - both fourth seeds - cannot meet in the group stage.


"I am open to the idea but that's a question for the two associations, and whether they feel merit in that fixture," said Michael. "It is one that has had problems in the past but from a fo otball point of view, I can certainly see the benefit."

The two men will be in Paris for the draw on Saturday, the pair of them also holding talks with their respective employers in Belfast and Dublin about a new contract with is just a formality for both men.

Roy Keane's long-term involvement with the FAI is not so certain, as the ex-Sunderland boss has expressed his desire to ditch the No. 2 role and be a No. 1 again.

"First things first, I would definitely want him. We would certainly want him to the Euros. After that I don't think we can predict the future," said Martin O'Neill.

"Do I think that Roy is ready to go back into club management if that is what he wants to do? Absolutely.

"He would be great at it. He has been great, I have said that umpteen times, but he is young and he has had a taste for it and he will eventually want to go and make his own decisions. That's not to say that we don't listen to him.

"But 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 that he is any mad rush to clear off."

A date in Paris for the draw on Saturday is the key date for the Republic's manager but he's also thinking of the make-up of that squad which will make its way to France.

It's safe to say that, given his recent troubles and lack of first team action, Anthony Stokes won't be on the plane but O'Neill, aware that players like Aiden McGeady, Darron Gibson and Marc Wilson are all struggling to get games at club level, says that the door to the squad is open.

That was not the case in 2012 when the likes of Seamus Coleman and Wilson found the way to the Irish squad closed off as Giovanni Trapattoni stuck with the tried and tested.

"Is there time for people to make a bit of an impact yet? Absolutely. We've got games coming up in March time, one or two players who have been in or around the scene will hopefully have the chance to go and stake a claim and maybe somebody else will just pop up," said O'Neill, an admirer of fringe players like Harry Arter, back in the Bournemouth side.

"He's back. Of course and he'd be one that I'd be referring to there. I thought he did very very well against England and he was playing with a injury because he wanted to play.

"But he didn't play for quite some months afterwards but now he's feeling fit so yeah, absolutely, he would be one of those people that I was talking about."


This year was the first time since 1990 that the manager of the year award was a joint one and former Shamrock Rovers boss and Dublin resident Michael O'Neill, who jokes about members of his own family supporting the Republic in France, felt it was merited given the historic achievement of both nations qualifying.

"I think it's fitting, at the end of the day we both achieved what at the outset what we set out to do, to get to France. We both did that. Martin had to come through the play-offs. I think what he did through the group given the result in June when he had a lot of negativity around the whole situation at that time and he turned it around," said the North's boss.

"That's great management, you have to turn it around, you've only four games and to produce the result against Germany that they did and at the end of the day."