Sunday 22 July 2018

How the O'Neill contract saga unfolded

Martin O'Neill will meet with the FAI this week
Martin O'Neill will meet with the FAI this week
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

October 5

The FAI announce some big news on Twitter in the build-up to Ireland's final pair of regular World Cup qualifiers with Moldova and Wales. "BREAKING: Martin O'Neill has agreed a contract extension and will continue as the Republic of Ireland manager for the EURO 2020 campaign!" reads the message with an accompanying emoji of clapping hands.

"I spoke to John very recently and he said on behalf of the board he would like to extend my contract for another couple of years, obviously with the Euros coming up, and I've agreed to do so," said O'Neill.

"I'm delighted, I've enjoyed it immensely. International football was something I didn't know whether you'd get used to or not but obviously qualification for the Euros made it all worthwhile and we're still in this competition also."

October 6

It emerges that, while O'Neill did make a verbal agreement with the FAI to stay on, that discussion had taken place without reaching any deal on terms and conditions or - more to the point - a contract being signed.

October 9

The FAI's decision to award a contract to O'Neill before the games received some criticism, but Ireland win in Wales to book a World Cup play-off place.

October 26

At the squad announcement for the play-off game with Denmark, O'Neill says Roy Keane will be staying around too but confirmed that he hadn't put pen to paper - similar to the new deal that was announced before Euro 2016 but only signed after the World Cup qualifier with Serbia later that year.

"We have agreement with John (Delaney)," he says. "Nothing has been signed up. It was the same as the last time (pre-Euro finals) and I think Roy would want to stay around.

"I'm sure he'll want to stay on and we'll see. I probably don't want to talk much more about it. We've big games to come."

November 7

Keane says he is happy in the job, while stressing it was the anticipation of occasions like the forthcoming games with Denmark that made it worth it.

He dismisses the suggestion that it was a job he felt safe in."Safe? Secure? Comfortable? Those are not great traits to have either in a job," he replied.

"You always need an edge. I enjoy my job here. I enjoy working with Martin, the FAI, I certainly enjoy working with the players and I am not distracted or sidetracked by anything.

"But you also have to look at the bigger picture. If you are secure and safe well I am not great with that, either. There has to be an edge.

"The next week we have that, with the pressure of the games. That is what we are here for. If I wanted a safe and secure job, I would probably work in the media a bit more."

November 14

Ireland's World Cup dreams lie in tatters following a second-leg nightmare against Denmark at the Aviva which ends in a humiliating 5-1 defeat. O'Neill briefly addresses the rebuilding task ahead with players expected to retire.

"We need to start again. We need to think about some younger elements, how it is time to blood them through. Obviously we will take it from there. The new competition that it is coming in, the draw for that is in January."

November 25

O'Neill's odds to become the next Everton manager are slashed but they ultimately turn to Sam Allardyce and it's believed he was not actually a strong contender for the post.

December 21

The FAI announce that Ireland's next game will be a friendly with Turkey in March preceded by a training camp. O'Neill has been part of discussions about the 2018 itinerary, although his contract has yet to be finalised.

January 6

Mark Hughes is shown the door at Stoke City following a cup defeat to Coventry and O'Neill's name is mentioned in dispatches due to the fact he is held in high regard by Stoke chairman Peter Coates

January 9

O'Neill's main rival for the post is thought to be Derby manager Gary Rowett but he rules himself out of the race by agreeing a new three-and-a-half-year contract with the Championship promotion chasers.

January 10

News breaks that Stoke have made contact with O'Neill. Initial talks suggest that Stoke are viewing the Derryman as a shorter-term option if they decide to offer him the job. The 65-year-old would only be interested in a longer term deal.

However, it emerges that a Stoke delegation has also flown to Barcelona to speak with Espanyol manager Quique Sanchez Flores.

January 11

The FAI's earlier confidence that O'Neill would be staying is waning with some Abbotstown staff feeling that change could be imminent.

But Coates' son John - the vice-chairman - preferred Sanchez Flores to O'Neill and he had strong support from the rest of the board who were willing to offer a five-year deal to lure him from Espanyol.

January 12

O'Neill makes late plans to come to Dublin to attend the Soccer Writers' awards with the rest of his backroom staff with Sanchez Flores on the verge of accepting the Stoke job. After arriving, he refuses to speak to the media.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport