Monday 22 January 2018

Martin O’Neill: I have the final say on everything

New boss makes the decisions but will harness Keane’s input and passion

Martin O'Neill, left, and Roy Keane, right, signed two-year contracts with the FAI on Tuesday
Martin O'Neill, left, and Roy Keane, right, signed two-year contracts with the FAI on Tuesday
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARTIN O'NEILL says he has no concerns about bringing Roy Keane's “strong personality” into the Ireland dressing room, but stressed that he will be making the final decisions.

The 61-year-old, who will be officially unveiled at a press conference in Dublin at 1pm today, has expanded on his reasons for bringing Keane in as his number two.

Liam Brady suggested earlier this week that the Derry man might have underestimated Keane's presence.

However, the new boss insists he is coming into the job with his eyes open. “I'm the manager,” said O'Neill. “Eventually the decisions will fall to me. That doesn't mean I can't rely on Roy's opinion, but this was how I worked with John Robertson for years and years.

“I would have decisions to make and John would have an input, but, if you're the manager, you live and die by those decisions. Having said that, I wouldn't be expecting Roy to be playing a passive role.”

Roy Keane is an iconic figure in world football, never mind the Republic of Ireland, so if you're talking about egos, it doesn't bother me.

“Roy's appointment has stirred a lot of people, which is great, but right from the off, I'd be well aware of that. That's not a problem. Roy is a very strong personality and very well known and people will want to hear his views. Far from shying away from that, I welcome it.”

O'Neill acknowledges the perception of Keane as a hard man to please, but feels that people have possibly forgotten that he himself also possesses a lot of the same characteristics.

“Roy has that reputation for more fire than ice and it's probably me being that much older and, supposedly, a bit wiser that makes people reckon I' ll be the calm old head.

“It's interesting that people take that fire out of their image of me when it's been part of my make-up through a whole managerial career.

“They ask me if I have regained my enthusiasm for the task after my experience at Sunderland. The answer is I never lost my enthusiasm.”

O'Neill admits that his tenure as manager will be judged on his success or otherwise in making it to major tournaments with his contract expiring when Ireland's interest in Euro 2016 ends.

“Qualification is what I will be gauging my time there on,” he says.

“A number of very good managers have done well to lead Ireland to tournaments – Jack Charlton, Mick McCarthy, Giovanni Trapattoni – and we will do our utmost to qualify.

“That’s what we’ll be judged on. There’s a bit of disappointment lingering around from the end of the last tournament, so maybe it’s about galvanising people.”

O’Neill is still stung by his dismissal from Sunderland and has mounted a defence of his time in the north east of England in the context of Paolo Di Canio’s subsequent struggles and the support he was given by owner Ellis Short.

“In the whole debacle, it gets forgotten that when I first joined Sunderland, they were third from bottom with 11 points from 14 games,” he said.

“Because I won a number of games to start with, everyone, including the owner, started to think we had cracked it.

“Di Canio was allowed to bring in 15 new players at a time and then didn’t last six games into this season. Since I left (in March), Sunderland have won three Premier League games. Di Canio, coming in, disparaging about everything, won two of 11 games. They’ve taken 12 points from a possible 51 since my time.

“I wouldn’t have minded the opportunity to sign 15 players. Nothing is certain in this game, but my record in management over 20 years would suggest that we would have got the five points needed to stay up.”

Meanwhile, O’Neill has confirmed the decision to replace Irish goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly with Seamus McDonagh.

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