Sunday 25 February 2018

Comment: Petulant Martin O'Neill isn't the victim of any media vendetta and a more dignified approach is required

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill after the UEFA Nations League Draw in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / UEFA via Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill after the UEFA Nations League Draw in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / UEFA via Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Martin O’Neill missed a glorious opportunity to reignite his career as Ireland manager in his latest prickly interview with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue.

After weeks of speculation over his future and plenty of conjecture over whether he should continue in his post after staging talks with Stoke City about a return to the Premier League, O’Neill’s first appearance as Ireland manager since last November’s 5-1 World Cup play-off defeat against Denmark was the stage for him to wipe the slate clean, start a fresh chapter in this story and paint a picture of a bright future for our national team.

Instead, O’Neill turned his four minute and 16 second exchange with O’Donoghue into an uncomfortable experience for the interviewee and all of us watching on, as he vented some anger that appears to have been simmering since the justifiably brutal post-match analysis of the Denmark game.

This was not what we all wanted to see.

After a series of tetchy post-match interviews with O’Donoghue over the course of his reign as Ireland manager, O’Neill looked like a petulant child as he renewed acquaintances with a inquisitor he struggles to respect following the draw for UEFA’s new Nations League tournament.

The Ireland boss, it seems, has appointed O’Donoghue as his poster boy for what he perceives to be a media vendetta against him, yet O’Neill was alone in emerging from this latest unfortunate exchange with questions to answer.

O’Neill and O’Donoghue have been involved in some awkward exchanges over the last four years, but it is hard to remember a moment when the experienced broadcaster posed a question to the Ireland boss that could be deemed as inappropriate.

While interviewing often irate managers a few minutes after games can be a perilous occupation, RTÉ’s eloquent frontman has always conducted himself professionally in the face of an aggressive adversary.

Yet this latest meeting was one of the most bizarre of them all, as O’Neill accused O’Donoghue of launching a ‘verbal attack’ against him after the Denmark mauling at the Aviva Stadium, with the patronising tone used by the Ireland manager as surprising as it was unwarranted.

O’Donoghue asked all the right questions while navigating his was through his uncomfortable audience with O’Neill, as he politely asked whether he had considered his position as Ireland boss and whether he felt the media criticism of the Denmark defeat had irritated him.

Does Martin O'Neill owe Tony O'Donghue an apology after today's interview in Switzerland?

Only O’Neill can explain why those questions were so offensive to him and it does raise numerous questions why this 65-year-old manager has decided to continue in his current role if the scars left by a bruising 2017 are so slow to heal.

It really doesn’t need to be like this.

We all want our national team to succeed and the media and Ireland fans are entitled to express our disappointment when we are hammered at home in a World Cup play-off after some strange substitutions by an experienced manager who had a worryingly bad night at the office when it mattered most.

Everyone appreciates that O’Neill is working with a pool of Ireland players boasting limited ability, but he needs to accept criticism when it comes his way and appreciate that the golden moments he has overseen make those darker days worthwhile.

That dignified approach is what we expect of our Ireland manager. It should not be too much to ask.

Online Editors

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