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Saturday 3 December 2016

Contract talks are on hold for now

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill watches squad training in Abbotstown ahead of tomorrow’s Euro 2016 play-off first leg clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill watches squad training in Abbotstown ahead of tomorrow’s Euro 2016 play-off first leg clash with Bosnia-Herzegovina

It's not official and formal contract talks have been placed on hold but it does look as if Martin O'Neill will be around for another few years as Ireland boss.

A win over two legs in the Euro 2016 play-off against Bosnia will clarify everything - at least in the medium term.

"It will be hard to shake me off if we've qualified for France. I would be ecstatic if we did and I'd love to lead the team to France," he said and there was no qualifying clause attached.

That, in itself, tells us nothing more than his contract says. He will be the Ireland manager if qualification is achieved, up to and including the finals in France.

There's almost nine months to go before lift-off and that's an awful long time in football.

If he is successful against Bosnia and adds Ireland to the top table for France, he would almost inevitably attract offers from clubs in England.

But he left everyone with the distinct impression that it would not take much for O'Neill and the FAI to have a meeting of minds about reaching agreement on a more long term arrangement,

From what O'Neill said, he has a vision of a new Ireland down the road.

Everyone is being particularly coy about a new deal and that's no surprise. The FAI have jumped in before and offered extensions to outgoing managers when some time for reflection might have produced a different outcome. They want to do this by the book.

For O'Neill's part, his nature is keep his business to himself as we've all found out over the last two years. Dragging information from him about a team line-up makes tooth extraction look like a frolic. There is no chance he would spill the beans on any negotiations which may or may not have taken place.

"I told you this before that I'd wait to see how we go. There has been no further talks. That is fine. Absolutely fine," he said.

"My contract essentially ends, roughly within a week or so of us finishing. If we qualify, let me make this clear, it would be great, I'd love to take the team to France, that would be fantastic. Then we can sit down at leisure and discuss those things," he added.

"If we don't qualify, then John (Delaney) and I would sit down. He has been pretty supportive. He mentioned to me in June, just after the Scotland game, when there was a possibility of other things happening, that he would like me to stay on. That was in June. I still thought we had a chance of qualification."

He was in a small minority with that thought. Few believed that a play-off was possible after Gordan Strachan left the Aviva with a draw.

The issue for everyone is progression. Kenny Cunningham made the point that a proper review of whether progress has been made is crucial if a new deal is to be offered and he was spot on.

"If we qualify then I think that would be an obvious progression. For instance if you took the Germany game, that we won, beat the world champions, whereas the last time we played them in Dublin, the team were beaten, that was progress," O'Neill said.

Swansong

"What I'd like to do if things work out, there are a number of older players playing. This might be the last two games they play. If they carry us to France, then France would be their swansong.

"I'd like at some stage or another to introduce a group of younger players into the squad who are capable of dealing with international football, almost immediately.

"I don't mean in four years time, and that's something I'd really like to develop. And, preferably, lads who are born in this country. Those are type of things I'd like to progress," claimed O'Neill.

"I'm enjoying things immensely and that's pretty important. I wish we were here having a conversation about France but we've these two games to go through.

"So nothing else has happened for no other reason than I've put it away because these two games are pretty important. There's nothing new to tell," said the Ireland boss.

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