Tuesday 24 April 2018

Martin O'Neill keen to stay on past Euro 2016 so long as Ireland progress

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

Garry Doyle

Martin O'Neill has spoken for the first time about extending his stay with the Republic of Ireland beyond the duration of this European Championship campaign.

The Irish manager told the Sunday Independent that he would be willing to sit down with the FAI to discuss a renegotiation of his terms ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which begin in September 2016.

Employed on a salary of €1.3m per year, part of which is funded by businessman Denis O'Brien, O'Neill re-affirmed his commitment to the job and suggested he would like to lengthen his tenure if he feels the team is making progress on his watch.

"When I came in here, first of all, I let everyone know that my contract runs out the day we have either made it, or not made it, to the finals in France," said O'Neill. "There are other aspects to the job that are peripheral to me and yet having said that, it is nice to see lads like David McGoldrick and Cyrus Christie coming through because you know that if you are to go that at least you'll be leaving a decent side behind for the next guy.

"Personally speaking, I don't want to look too far ahead, and I don't think anybody (in the FAI) has. I also don't know if I should go putting that kind of pressure on myself by discussing a new contract so early.

"But if I feel I'm building something here, and we've been genuinely unlucky in not qualifying, well that might be a different issue. So if I feel I'm wanted, and results have shown I could do something with the team, then I would consider (staying on for the 2018 World Cup).

"I have genuinely enjoyed the job. Of course nobody gets more downbeat than me when we lose. But I've great enthusiasm for being the Republic of Ireland manager and I wouldn't like that to wane. I'll see (at the end of this campaign) whether we've progressed and whether I've taken this forward, and if I feel we've done that, I'll see.

"But if the team has not improved one jot, I'll know myself what to do. The next batch of home games will decide a lot. To qualify for the Euros would be something that would make me very proud."

The Ireland manager has been forced to continually defend his assistant Roy Keane, who found himself under investigation by Greater Manchester Police nine days ago following an alleged road rage incident.

Yet if O'Neill is worried by the headlines which follow his number two around, then he does a fine job of hiding his concern.

"I don't want to be an apologist for Roy Keane here, and that's how it always sounds, but seriously, at this moment, some of those incidents are simply blown out of proportion because it's Roy. My only annoyance with him is the beard. It is getting uglier, really long, incredibly long," O'Neill joked.

"I saw him last week, and if I'm going to chastise him about anything, then it is the fact he has a two-coloured beard again. 'Is it really you?' I asked him when we met. 'That beard makes you look terribly old'.

"But seriously, the incidents around Roy are not the distraction you think it is, and this time, unlike the supposed fracas in the hotel last November, this has happened outside the time we're together as a squad. By the time we get round to meeting up it'll be a bit of history, and I don't think the incident warrants me chastising anybody.

"It's not a distraction, and what he's doing for us here, and what I believe he's doing for us, overrides what I consider some sort of altercation."

Confirming that Keane will fulfil his media duties before the Poland game next month, O'Neill pledged to right a worrying wrong, namely Ireland's home record, which shows that in competitive games since 2001, Ireland have beaten only one side ranked in the world's top 40, Slovakia in 2007, on home turf.

"We have to change the record, really," said O'Neill. "The Poland game is so, so essential, so important to us. We have to put everything into the game to try and find a way to beat them."

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