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HE must be weary of the whole circus. Martin O’Neill certainly looks as if he would like it all to go away.

It’s not so much that the honeymoon is over. It’s the fact that he has to watch while his new partner ties the FAI monogrammed sheets and duvet cover they share to a table leg and gets ready to climb out the window

Then it turns out that Keane’s head has been turned by, not one, but several better offers. How distressing is that?

What Martin O’Neill is now fully tuned into is the full kaleidoscope of emotions and contradictions Keane raises every time he does something, anything.

He couldn’t have known. You have to actually be at the epicentre of a big Keane story to see the voracious demands for a significant or even coherent contribution and O’Neill is fulfilling the role of spokesman for the Corkman without knowing the important details himself.

O’Neill claimed that none of this was a distraction but it is and he could do without it before a big game against Italy in his preparation for Euro 2016. And it won’t stop here.

It was an uncomfortable position to be in and you have to wonder whether O’Neill took enough advice on the potential consequences for himself before he picked his No.2.

There have been clear benefits for Ireland and for Keane and anyone out there beating the Saipan drum again should really find another sport to follow. It’s not even relevant.


If O’Neill had hired Steve Walford as his assistant and an offer came in which he couldn’t refuse, would there be any fuss? Keane is a No.2. That’s the fact of it. O’Neill is the manager.

It would be utterly different if Keane was the Ireland manager and even contemplated for a second jumping ship. Then, it would be an unforgivable step. Now, it’s just the pragmatic one.

There are plenty of arguments for Keane sitting tight and making a definitive statement about the next 18 months. He is enjoying a lot of his role and even this week, he was bubbling with humour.

Most significantly, he has been in among the players; talking, cajoling, lifting and generally speaking, doing his job.

He turned up at the Under-19s in Tallaght and he’s been busy in the background pressing the flesh for the FAI and meeting all sorts of different people. More than one young Irish footballer dealing with an injury has received a surprise but very welcome phone call.

In short, he has been among his own a great deal, more than he has been for some time.

But it is the players who will draw on his heartstrings. He will feel a loyalty to them as he should and if he is, as O’Neill suggests, still weighing things up, it will be his commitment to them even more than the manager which will niggle in the background.

There is, if course, always the possibility that if all of this goes up in smoke, unlikely now it would seem, and Keane is still the No.2, O’Neill may have a decision to make.

Does he really want to deal with this every time someone is sacked in the next two years? Keane is now a viable management option again and that is very clear. He will get more offers if he doesn’t move on this batch.

One thing is certain. Keane now owes O’Neill and Ireland a big one. Put simply, his involvement with the senior team made him employable again and fickle as that may be, it’s the reality.

The ledger has always been weighted firmly towards Keane when it comes to his relationship with his country. On a football field he was peerless and off it, he made us question our own inadequacies.

His own personality quirks and the image he wore for the English media caught up with him and because he leans towards absolutes, he receives no grace. Washed out failure was the judgement and delivered with great enthusiasm.

Ireland, O’Neill and ITV have given him the path back and if there was any evidence at all that this was always just a publicity exercise in Keane’s mind, he would deserve to be dismissed as a mercenary.

But there is none. Even the restricted view the media gets of Ireland at work shows us a man doing what he loves; embracing the criticisms which were levelled at him about his management style.


Somewhere down the line, we’ll collect on that. If nothing else comes of the last nine months than Keane’s realisation that everyone has moved on and wishes him well, then O’Neill did us all a great service.

Oh, and the game against Italy tonight? Everyone is fit apart from Anthony Stokes and Mario Balotelli is talking tough about England.

On another day, it’s all we’d be talking about.