November 21, 2018
Ireland won one of final 11 games under O’Neill’s management
• Mick McCarthy an option as FAI looks to appoint by 2 December
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane leave Republic of Ireland roles
Martin O’Neill has left his role as manager of the Republic of Ireland, who have also bid farewell to his assistant Roy Keane.
The departures follow talks on Tuesday between the pair and the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, John Delaney, who had awarded them contract extensions in January in recognition of the positive results achieved in their first four years in charge.
Results and performances have deteriorated since and Delaney, confronted with dwindling attendances, rising criticism and the prospect of missing out on Euro 2020, let O’Neill and Keane know he thought it was time to end their reign. Seamus McDonagh, the goalkeeping coach, and Steve Guppy, an assistant coach, have also left.
Ireland have won only won of their past 11 matches and had already been relegated from their Nations League group before Monday’s 0-0 draw in Denmark. O’Neill had tried to revamp his squad over the last year, giving debuts to a dozen players, and he said after the Denmark match that he remained enthusiastic about his role and confident of reaching Euro 2020, for which Ireland is one of 12 host nations.
Last month O’Neill went so far as to say he was certain he could lead Ireland into those finals, declaring: “We’ll go through. Simple as that. Because I’m good.”
The FAI, however, will now entrust that mission to someone else. It is understood to be keen on appointing a replacement before the Euro 2020 draw in Dublin on 2 December.
Stephen Kenny, celebrated for the attractive style he has cultivated at the League of Ireland champions Dundalk, would be a popular and bold option. With the FAI loth to miss a tournament it is to co-host, a manager with experience of international football would be a safer choice, which could mean good news for Mick McCarthy, who is available after stepping down from Ipswich Town in April and is known to be keen on returning to a role that he filled with distinction until his dismissal in 2002.
Ireland’s miserable performance over the past 12 months amounted to a sorry end to a tenure that previously delivered glowing success. O’Neill and Keane’s first campaign culminated in qualification for Euro 2016, where Ireland reached the knockout stage for the first time. They came within a play-off of reaching the 2018 World Cup after finishing second in a qualifying group for which they had started as fourth seeds. The heavy defeat in Dublin – 5-1 by Denmark – in the second leg of that play-off triggered a downward spiral that O’Neill and Keane were unable to stop. Criticism of a blustery style of play grew deeper.
The FAI’s president, Donal Conway, said: “On behalf of the FAI board, I would like to thank Martin, Roy and the management team for their work with the Republic of Ireland team over the last five years. Martin ensured that we enjoyed some great nights in the Aviva Stadium and on the road in Lille, Vienna and Cardiff, which were fantastic high points for Irish football.”
Delaney said: “There have been many highlights during Martin’s reign – none more so than Euro 2016 in France, which will live long in the memory of all Irish supporters.
“Martin did a great job guiding the team out of a difficult qualifying group – where we beat world champions Germany along the way – to reach Euro 2016 and advance to the last 16 following a historic victory over Italy in Lille. I wish Martin, and the management team, the very best for the future.”
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