Tuesday 24 October 2017

Successful play-off push sees FAI keen to fast-track new contract for Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill has indicated that he would like to continue managing Ireland beyond Euro 2016
Martin O'Neill has indicated that he would like to continue managing Ireland beyond Euro 2016
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland's stunning win over Germany is expected to accelerate the FAI's plans to hold formal discussions with Martin O'Neill about extending his contract for a further two years.

Before Shane Long's golden moment downed the world champions and set up a thrilling Group D climax in Warsaw tomorrow night, both the FAI and O'Neill had indicated they were open to continuing their relationship into the World Cup 2018 campaign. The only potential fly in the ointment was a limp end to the race to France and a fourth-place finish in a tricky qualifying group.

However, the German victory has assured Ireland of a play-off berth and they can qualify for the European Championships automatically if they beat Poland on their own turf or secure a high-scoring draw.

A thrilling night at the Aviva, which has lifted the mood around the football team, backed up O'Neill's argument that progress has been made during his time in charge.

When the 63-year-old was appointed as Ireland boss in November 2013, he confessed that he had reservations about the pace of international management compared to the club sphere and he repeated that point during his early days in the job. But it's believed that he has warmed to the specific nature of the role and is genuinely keen to stick around.

His loyalty was tested in the summer when Leicester made a strong play for his services. The link with his former club passed relatively quickly, but it's understood they were desperate to appoint the Derryman as the replacement for Nigel Pearson. Despite his strong association with the Foxes, O'Neill rejected the approach, feeling it would be wrong to break his contract midway through the French mission.

Last month, FAI CEO John Delaney said that O'Neill should not have put pressure on himself by stating that his job security was dependent on booking a ticket for next summer's soiree. He made those comments before landing a pool with Germany, Poland and Scotland.

"I really enjoy working with Martin O'Neill," said Delaney. "He is a very straight guy, and we all enjoy working with him. We will see how the rest of the games work out. And, after that, we'll sit down and talk to Martin."

Amid the euphoria on Thursday, O'Neill was at pains to point out that Ireland still have a mountain of work ahead of them before they can even think of another major tournament outing.

If his charges end up in a play-off, they have a strong chance of being seeded but it is not guaranteed and that could complicate the path to Paris. Nevertheless, the FAI believe that O'Neill is the man for the long road. The next part of the equation is to ascertain the intentions of Roy Keane, who is open to the idea of extending his stay despite the attraction of returning to club management.

Irish Independent

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