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Some might say Roy looks more like a successor

NICE, France, one week, Watford the next. The work goes on for Martin O'Neill, but at least there's a match to plan for next week and a chance to add substance to the notions he has picked up during three months data-gathering.

O'Neill arrives in Dublin tomorrow for the annual FAI Player of the Year awards, mind abuzz with thoughts of Germany, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and even Gibraltar, but his priorities for the next week will be purely practical.

He is in a refining process and Serbia will be used to explore the limits of the player pool he has inherited. Most importantly, he will get to interact with them for four days and in that time, decisions will be made. The fact that neither Watford nor Blackpool have a representative in the Ireland squad for Wednesday's friendly against Serbia at the Aviva Stadium tells us that O'Neill is still searching for new options or maybe, in this case, reviewing an old one.

Blackpool do have Andy Keogh, who was an unlikely part of Giovanni Trapattoni's core squad for a long time in the event of injuries and could make it into this one, and Ireland Under 21 Sean Murray has been ever-present for the Hornets all season. O'Neill is covering all the bases.

Small details really do make a difference. Trap was happy to talk about them, but less interested in putting in the legwork. It is almost a cliché at this stage, but there is no way he would ever have been seen at Vicarage Road on a cold day in February.

Roy Keane doubles the amount of information available and again, there is simply no comparison between the Corkman's workload and the effort put in by Marco Tardelli.

Keane is a busy man. The Brittania Stadium today is just the latest in a long list of assignments and he was also in Nice at the Euro 2016 draw a week ago, soaking up the blazer-filled atmosphere and posing for stony-faced selfies with hacks.

It is interesting to note that the FAI are actively promoting O'Neill and Keane as a double-act, a smart move and credit to the Abbotstown marketing department. And it is interesting to note that the sentiment towards Keane which was so polarised before has softened, perhaps mirroring the sense that he is also in the humour to compromise.

Certainly, the notion that Keane might step straight into O'Neill's shoes at the end of the current two-year cycle, a notion which would have caused a bitter and noisy debate this time last year, seems a lot more realistic now.

Irish people will always respond to a trier and when Keane was named as O'Neill's No 2, the announcement came with a flood of quotes all pointing towards a willingness to learn which was at odds with everything seen before from the Corkman.

Keane's public persona has been constructed around him being the enforcer, the battlefield general and the man who knows best in all circumstances. But a new and improved image of a more rounded, less aggressive and more open individual can only help Keane build himself back up to hireable status in the English Championship or Premier League. Maybe one day Ireland. So far, O'Neill has dealt with interest in Keane by playing the role of a restrained older brother. If they were in Oasis, Martin would be Noel.

Who knows how this dynamic will develop. It is one aspect of the new Ireland management team which has been conducted almost entirely in private and the assumption has always been that they get on like a house on fire.

But what if they fall out? Everyone's knows Liam could sing a tune, but we all know who wrote the songs. It's all before us.


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