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Monday 5 December 2016

O'Neill finally signs his new FAI deal

But he won't confirm or deny if there is a get-out clause in new two-year contract

Martin O’Neill says Roy Keane is also delighted to get the deal done
Martin O’Neill says Roy Keane is also delighted to get the deal done

So what was all that about? Martin O'Neill finally signed a new deal but gave no explanation for the delay, no words on why he brought six months of media aggravation on himself.

No confirmation either about the presence or absence of a get-out clause in his new two-year deal which would allow him to fly the nest and take a club job.

In fact, if you listened to what he was saying at the squad announcement for the Russia 2018 qualifiers against Moldova and Georgia, it was almost as if the previous days, weeks and months of prevarication and inaction had never happened.

During that time, his reaction to a query about signing a deal ranged from downright irritated to mildly amused but at all times you could sense that he felt it was an impertinence to be questioned on the matter.

Likewise yesterday when the first question was about his deal and created an immediate tension in the room.

In very short sentences, he confirmed that it had been signed and later declined to reveal any of the fine detail.

Peeved

It is a remarkable exercise in mental gymnastics to create an issue of great interest to Irish football supporters and then seem genuinely peeved that people keep asking about it.

To paraphrase him, the deal was agreed months ago and he never felt it was important to sign off on it.

That is a patently ridiculous position given the fact that for three months O'Neill was essentially a free agent and the FAI were at risk of losing him without any compensation.

But at least he has done the deed now and Roy Keane as well.

"Listen, I'm not going into the ins and outs of it. I really don't think that's important. I'm not in the habit of disappearing," he said.

"I want to try and do well in the qualifying competition and we're trying to push on again from the Euros. It's a new campaign now and I think Roy's got exactly the same commitment, wanting to drive on.

"As I say, who knows what might happen? I don't know, is the answer. But is there a determination to go and try to qualify for Russia? Absolutely."

Asked about whether he had any offers to go with the third-party approach which came from Leicester last year, O'Neill brushed the question aside.

"I want to do the job and certainly after the Scotland game [in June 2015] there wouldn't have been a prayer of me walking away at that time. Not a prayer.

"Eventually you go and do it and get it done. It has not changed, my commitment, and I'm delighted, for that part, that so is Roy. We have gone and committed ourselves now so let's go for it and see if we can do it."

Asked whether the players were at any time concerned by his reticence about signing a new deal, he shrugged.

"No, I don't think so. I was speaking to two of the players one evening and saying in terms of looking at my own managerial record and in terms of longevity at particular clubs - Sunderland apart - I think that you would realise that I am not one for just downing tools at any given minute.

"It never concerned the players and I think we got great delight and pleasure from the Euros.

"Again, I think the players would be pretty pleased with the outcome of the Euros and pleased with their own performances.

"I think the minute that they go back to their clubs, I think their minds are completely focused on club football.

"Do you know what players want to know? They want to know two things. I told you this before: they want to know if they are playing and if they are getting paid.

"They like the manager if they are playing and they are not that fond of him if they don't.

"I'm delighted to have done it but I agreed with John [Delaney, FAI chief executive] way back before the Euros started and nothing had changed.

"Truth is, if anything untoward had happened during that time, in terms of illnesses or something, well that would have been my own fault really.

"I think that the finals and the qualification are a kind of vindication.

"I think that you have to have some sort of confidence in yourself about the job when you take it on and while I've got the utmost regard for the previous manager whose own record at club level is fantastic, Ireland had dropped, they hadn't qualified for the World Cup and so I thought, this is really worth taking on.

"I really wanted to do well in it but you never, you never know. It was my first taste of international management. Do I have a stronger conviction now that we can qualify? I don't know, but the conviction was always there," added O'Neill.

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