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Martin O’Neill on being an 'outsider' with Ireland, a return to management, and why Roy Keane is not done yet


Martin O'Neill's reign as during a Republic of Ireland manager ended in 2018. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill's reign as during a Republic of Ireland manager ended in 2018. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill's reign as during a Republic of Ireland manager ended in 2018. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Martin O’Neill says he felt he was treated as an “outsider” and a “Northerner” when he was manager of the Republic of Ireland.

The subject is one of many addressed in O’Neill’s new autobiography On Days Like These – which he has written himself – and in an interview, the Co Derry man outlined his belief that for some elements of the Irish media, his “persona didn’t seem to fit”.

He adds that, as time passed, his assistant Roy Keane saw things the same way.

O’Neill became Ireland manager in November 2013 and immediately created a buzz in the country by bringing in Keane as his No 2.

He led Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, beating world champions Germany 1-0 in qualifying, and reached the knockout stages in France, courtesy of a famous victory over Italy.

But things started to unravel following a 5-1 home defeat to Denmark in a World Cup play-off – and that’s where O’Neill believes the criticism began to ratchet up.

That intensified over the following months and the FAI ultimately replaced him with former boss Mick McCarthy in November 2018 after Ireland’s relegation to the third tier of the Nations League – although Ireland were later restored to League B after a change in the competition’s format.

“The Denmark result became a point for the Republic media to throw everything at you in terms of criticism,” O’Neill says.

“It was kind of storing up a little bit. The truth is this, there were a number of times that I was called ‘the Northerner’ or ‘the outsider’ and I was treated in many ways the same way as [Giovanni] Trapattoni eventually became, one of those figures you tend to hate. I think that was it.

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“My persona didn’t seem to fit with them throughout the time and I’m even going back to heavy criticism in the early stages of our 2016 European campaign when we were in the same group as Germany, Poland, Scotland and Georgia.

“When we only drew with Scotland in Dublin and we still had plenty of matches to go, the criticism was very heavy at that stage but we made it through.

“I think if you are viewed as a bit of an outsider to begin with then it’s hard, regardless of results being okay, to win them back again. That would be my thoughts on it.”

“I mention this in the book when initially I said to Roy Keane I was considered a bit of an outsider and he wasn’t so sure to begin with but as time wore on he was absolutely convinced of it.

“At the end of the day I’m maybe not blameless. I think they felt I had an arrogant streak about me. I think that’s been called a few times but that’s absolutely and utterly far from the case.

“The result against Denmark was treated as if it was the first match of the group rather than a play-off game to get to the World Cup.”

The Republic have failed to qualify for any tournaments since O’Neill’s departure and under current boss Stephen Kenny have struggled to make an impact on the international scene.

For the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign they have been drawn in the same group as France and the Netherlands.

Martin O’Neill: On Days Like These - My Life in Football is published by MacMillan

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