Monday 24 October 2016

O'Neill must sign deal and end hold-up

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill

Every time the calendar swings around to another big football international and Martin O'Neill is required to release a provisional squad, he usually has a bit of a moan about the pointlessness of it all.

He has a point. There is not much to say about a provisional squad.

An awful lot can happen in two weeks and it must seem like tempting fate to list all his best players as if they will be fit.

O'Neill, like every manager before him, wheels out 30 or 40 names, essentially every Irish player alive in England and Scotland and then answers questions on a range of subjects and not always centred on Ireland.

When Sky's cameras are around, O'Neill could find himself talking about anything at all.

Tomorrow, he's announcing the squad for Georgia/Moldova at the Aviva and the choice of the venue was unusual enough in itself to send out spies into the undergrowth to find out if anything special is planned.

A contract signing, perhaps?

Imagine the surprise when it quickly became clear that nobody knows anything or won't let on if they do, which leads to the obvious conclusion that O'Neill will put everyone out their misery and sign his bloody contract.

The reader will have to excuse the above but all parties have had enough of this contract and the mere mention of it is enough to bring people out in a rash.

A piece of paper which both O'Neill and the FAI claimed lacked only ink on the day the Irish team flew to Paris has become a most peculiar postscript to Euro 2016 and one which lingers like a bad smell.

From nosing around over recent weeks, the only theory which surfaced which might explain the delay revolves around the extra-curricular activities O'Neill fulfils for the FAI.

O'Neill is a regular visitor to Ireland for an amount of ribbon cutting and hand-shaking outside international dates and some have said that he is being asked to do too much.

As a sticking point, it would hardly seem significant enough to cause what has evolved over time into a serious stalemate.

Without any comment on the matter from the FAI since CEO John Delaney suggested that signing was imminent around the time of the AGM in July, O'Neill has made all the running, literally, in the media.

He helped create the story and then sulks when the question is asked; as it should be until there is no longer an issue.

This should have been fixed a long time ago and if the problem is on O'Neill's side, he needs to make up his mind. In fact, it is far beyond that point.

If the issue is on the FAI side and they want him to make too many speeches, cut them in half or cut them out altogether.

The impact a personal visit from the Ireland manager has on a community should not be underestimated. It is remembered long after the day.

But Ireland needs a manager, not an orator and O'Neill has done enough with this group of players to suggest he can do more.

If the issue is interest or potential interest from another party, well then 'good luck and thanks Martin' should be the FAI response.

They need stability and there are plenty of good managers out there who would see the job as a very attractive prospect following Euro 2016.

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