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O'Neill ready for the long road


MARTIN O'Neill rebuffed an approach by Leicester City and has stated for the first time clearly that he wants to take Ireland beyond Euro 2016.

The Ireland senior boss is in Sligo to play his part in the FAI's week long AGM programme of events and he did not hesitate to kill any lingering wisps of uncertainty about his future which lasted beyond Leicester's appointment of Claudio Rainieri.

"They had a number of candidates they were interested in and just wanted to know my position and I said I had a commitment here," said O'Neill.

"And that was fine, absolutely fine. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to stay on. We've still got four more games before you decide that you'll either see me or not as the case may be," he joked.

"No, seriously, a way back here, I made the commitment in the first place. I don't think anything was going to stop me from doing that. How could you go and do something else half-way through something?"

"Honestly, I want to do it, I think we still have a real fighting chance. And this is it. This is my commitment here and I'll obviously speak to John (Delaney) and the FAI board at the end of the time, whether that's October/November or whatever the case may be."

So, after dealing with the immediate possibility that he might bail out before the end of the qualifying campaign for France, O'Neill went on to place his interest in moving beyond that point on the record.

Judging by his words, O'Neill has talked to the FAI about the future. He will travel to St Petersburg for the World Cup 2018 draw next weekend.

"I think the FAI actually are - hopefully I'm not speaking out of turn - but I think that John, the FAI members, are hoping that this would be a longer-term commitment and that they do see that are some new faces coming in."

"Things like this here (Leicester) are going to crop up now and again but, seriously, I'm here, I want to do this job and I certainly wouldn't have want to have left it mid-stream."

O'Neill believes he is making progress but that a rebuilding job was always going to be necessary, regardless of who succeeded Giovanno Trapattoni.

"That's dead right. I think that if you feel that you are building something, I think you want to try and see that through. Yes, there's an immediacy. The last thing that you wanted me to be coming in here and saying was we're looking at something in the year 2018 or 2020."

"So what you really wanted to do is combine two things. There's an immediacy, so you have to try and get some results but at the same time you have to be on the look out to try and make some sort of progress," he said.

"Some of players, no matter how good a stalwart they've been are actually the other side of 30 so we need some new blood coming in. We definitely need some new blood," he added. "You've got to go and search for some young talent coming through you think can make a difference. You know that eventually they'll take the place of the older players but can they step up immediately? "

"It would have been easy for me to go in and say, I've got a couple of campaigns and this side will be really great in about six years' time. I'm not so sure that's what you really want."

"Results are the most important thing and I think I will be in a better position to make an assessment of our progress at the end of the competition when we have played the games.

"I think we have a really decent chance. Naturally, these two games coming up in September are everything for us.

"We must win the games by hook or by crook and we want to be going into the Germany match with the points, if we can, on the board and then have a real go at them if that is the case.

"There is no point of going into Germany and slipping up in Gibraltar. We must find a way to win that game and the game against Georgia.

"Again, it's getting back to the point, I think that the qualification is very, very important and it would be great if we could make it.

"And if I think that that is the case then I don't think there is anything else to concern ourselves about.

"There is no point in beating around the bush.

"If I honestly think that there has been this progress and, as important, the FAI believes that there is a definite improvement, I think the two of us could come to some sort of agreement," said the Ireland boss.