Sport Soccer

Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Neill irritated by stalled talks on new Rovers deal

O'Neill: frustrated
O'Neill: frustrated
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Michael O'Neill has indicated frustration at the lack of progress in new contract talks with Shamrock Rovers.

The title-winning manager's current deal expires at the end of the season, and the Northern Irishman wants to accelerate discussions to confirm that the Hoops authorities still feel he's the right person to lead the club forward.

O'Neill (41) has been in on-off negotiations with his employers over the past number of months about an extension, but has admitted that it's taking longer than he would have envisaged.

"There have been discussions with the board, but they are no further forward than they were three or six months ago to be honest," said O'Neill, after steering his club past Sligo and into the Setanta Cup final.

"I'd have liked them to be at a more advanced stage than they are at the minute. We've had discussions. They're fairly preliminary.

"My view of it is that I just get on with the job, do it the best I can, and continue trying to progress the club.

"It's up to the board what direction they want the club to go in and whether they see me as the person to take it in that direction. I'm in the last year of my contract. It's not really moved on in a hard and fast way.

"I've enjoyed my time here. I would certainly like to extend and continue to manage the club, but it has to be right for everyone. I'd imagine discussions will continue in the next few weeks, but they haven't been at a very advanced stage," he added.

For now, O'Neill has plenty of fixtures to keep his mind occupied. He is one of many league managers who are frustrated by the crowded schedule that is lying over the horizon, with the month of May particularly congested.

With the Setanta Cup final with Dundalk replacing a league clash, Rovers have seven fixtures pencilled in for May, yet if they progress through the EA Sports Cup and factor in the Leinster Senior Cup clash with Bohemians, that's a further two games into the mix. O'Neill concedes he has a stronger hand than most, pointing out that the schedule will be a drain on his squad so he can only imagine that it will be like for clubs like Drogheda, who only put together a team one week before the start of the season.

He admits he will have to rank competitions in the order of their value. "I prioritise them on the amount of money you get for winning it, and the Setanta Cup is a valuable trophy in that light," he said.

O'Neill is perplexed by the amount of midweek games scheduled for the next month, likening it to a run of games you would expect in a country where there has been multiple postponements of previous encounters. Instead, he attributes the match traffic to the FAI's keenness to leave space for July's Dublin Super Cup which features a league representative team and also a general desire around the country to have a shorter season so clubs can reduce overheads.

Rovers may have to reject lucrative offers of friendly games from English Premier League clubs due to a crammed summer calendar, another dilemma priorities-wise.

"We are inundated with requests to come over and play pre-season but there is no slot, and the reality is that it could be financially more beneficial than playing in Europe," he said. "Having a team out there and temporary seating in and 8,000 people may be more of a winner than playing some team from wherever and going out on away goals."

An increased top flight, which would mean less repetition and fewer games, has arisen as a possible solution, although O'Neill is unconvinced if that is the solution.

"Does it dilute the quality? That's the crux of the matter," he said.

"It would be nice to see Cork and Shelbourne and Waterford in the Premier Division. But they have to get out of where they are.

"Over time, the financially viable clubs need to end up in the Premier Division. How that is done is down to the powers that be."

Irish Independent

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