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Tuesday 25 September 2018

O'Neill is certain new manager partnership will work out well for Ireland

New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Picture credit: SPORTSFILE
New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Picture credit: SPORTSFILE

NEW IRELAND manager Martin O'Neill believes he and assistant Roy Keane have the right chemistry to make the partnership work.

"I do not pretend to know Roy intimately and he likewise with myself, but we met on a number of occasions here, a few years ago when we were doing some Champions League games and we always seemed to get on reasonably well," O'Neill said in Spain last night.

"That's not necessarily the complete criterion for everything but I'm looking forward to it and I think he'll do really well.

"He has got a great pedigree, of course, and he wants to progress."

"I've been a club manager for 20 years now and that is the situation I'd obviously look at, the day-to-day involvement of club football.

"But you've seen before where managers go into international level and are there for quite a number of years, so this particular opportunity might not have been afforded to me again.

"I thought, 'Yeah, this is the chance'. I intend to try to take it."

O'Neill insisted he was pleased with the players available to him.

"We've got some very, very decent players," he insisted. "I will get a better chance to assess them from working closely with them, when the time comes.

"We've got a couple of games coming and I'm looking forward to it."

Sense

O'Neill also reckons it made more sense for Noel King to select the squad for the friendlies against Latvia and Poland.

"Yes, Noel is picking the squad. I haven't had a chance to speak to Noel. He would be the one who would be picking that squad and quite rightly so, because he's been in charge for the last couple of games and he'd know the players.

"I've worked at club level with a number of them.

"I bought Richard Dunne. In my spell at Sunderland I was obviously with John O'Shea, Keiren Westwood and young James McClean.

"Of course I'd know Aiden McGeady, I gave him his debut when I was at Celtic. So I'd have a fair idea about a lot of the players.

"It will be great to get to know some of the others in due course."

Meanwhile, Ray Houghton insists Keane will not be expecting equal billing alongside O'Neill.

The strong-willed Keane has been a force for both good and bad for the Republic in the past, with his infamous falling-out with the national team management at the 2002 World Cup a memory that overrides all the positive things he did on the pitch.

Keane's return to the fold has given way to inevitable speculation over his likely influence on the dressing room, but Houghton, who was part of the team tasked by the FAI with searching for a new manager, has no concerns.

The former Republic midfielder spoke at length with Keane during the negotiations and said: "His enthusiasm, his knowledge, what he thought the Irish team could do was hugely surprising to me. He was very, very good.

"He knows what he wants, where he wants to take them alongside Martin. He knows his position: Martin will be the manager; Roy will assist Martin. So there's no grey area there – it's not like Roy's going to be on level terms.

"Martin will be the number one and Roy will do everything in his power to help him. It could be a good learning curve for Roy."

Asked about Keane's past strained relations with the FAI board, Houghton said: "I don't think that's going to be a problem. It took 30 seconds to put everything out of the way and now it's down to business.

"We have to leave the past in the past. We can't do anything about it. We can't change the past, what we can change is the future.

"For Irish football, it shows we're going in the right direction. It's exciting times. The next couple of years should be very, very good."

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