Tuesday 12 December 2017

Hoops rubbish O'Neill switch to Hibs claims ahead of title six-pointer

Neil Ahern

ON the eve of their biggest match of the season, League of Ireland leaders Shamrock Rovers yesterday denied that manager Michael O'Neill was poised to quit the club and take over at Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League.

O'Neill is 6/1 third favourite for the Hibs vacancy, behind former Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood and Ross County boss Derek Adams.

Some reports in Scotland said that the 41-year-old former Northern Ireland international had been lined up for the job even before John Hughes stepped down after a poor start to the season, which left the Easter Road outfit third from bottom in the SPL.

But the Hoops yesterday vehemently denied that there was any truth to the speculation and revealed that they are in talks with O'Neill about extending his contract, which has a year remaining.

Rovers chairman Jonathan Roche said: "There has been no official approach from Hibs. I'm always in contact with Michael and there is nothing to these reports. He's done a great job here. We're happy and he's happy. This is just speculation."

O'Neill spent three years at Hibernian as a player and gained many fans in Scottish football during his first managerial job at Brechin City.


The speculation is an unwelcome distraction for the Hoops as they prepare to take on fiercest rivals Bohemians at Dalymount Park in a six-pointer.

If Rovers avoid defeat, they will almost certainly lift the title for the first time since 1994 and Bohs defender Brian Shelley knows the importance of a home victory.

"It is definitely a game that we can't lose. Even a draw might not be enough, because with three games to go and Rovers maintaining a five-point gap you wouldn't expect them to lose two games in a row," said the 28-year-old, who has had two separate spells with Rovers.

"Rovers are in the driving seat, there is no doubt about that. We've got to go out with the attitude of having a real crack at it and make sure we don't leave anything on the park."

Shelley knows, too, that the game takes on even more importance in relation to the future of the financially stricken Phibsboro outfit.

"It is definitely going to help because I think everyone knows that the club are a little bit tight for cash. So the higher we finish up the league the more prize money we're going to get."

Bohemians v Shamrock Rovers,

Live, RTE2, 7.05

Irish Independent

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