O ‘Neill / Keane Era Ends
So the Martin O Neill / Roy Keane tenure as the Republic Of Ireland management team has ended after 5 years and 1 appearance at the 2016 European Championships. For around 4 years of their tenure everything was go very well and although after the 2016 European Championships where Ireland played some very open football and achieved some good results defeating Italy after a draw with Sweden and although Belgium comfortably beat Ireland , Ireland went into the next round to play hosts France and were beaten 3-1.
Things have gradually gone downhill. Openly questioning the ability of some of his players in public, never a smart move in any sporting organisation, looking to his assistant Roy Keane who came on board but seemly offered very little in the tactical approach of this Irish team.
Martin O Neill has had a strained relationship with the media in his 5 years at the helm , having a few set two’s with RTE correspondent Tony O Donoghue after a few games and not liking the fact his style of play was being questioned. He has had a few issues in recent times, like the situation with Declan Rice and Michael Obafemi who won his 1st cap on Monday evening against Denmark in Arhus.
Looking to the positives from his 5 year tenure, an appearance a major Championship has to be seen as a positive. The failure to make the World Cup will be seen as a black mark on the O Neill / Keane copybook. The distinct lack of a real playing style will also be viewed as a issue that dogged the 5 year tenure.
Since the 5-1 defeat to Denmark the change in formation to a 3-5-2 from the rigid 4-4-2 style he adopted in his first three years in charge smacked of desperation and yes Ireland do not possess the technical players that the likes of Spain and Germany have produced in the last 10 to 15 years but we do have players who are willing to work hard and if allowed they can pass the ball from A to B also. Not rocket science in the modern game.
The main issue for the FAI will now be who to put in charge before next March when qualification for Euro 2020 begins. Some are saying Mick Mc Carthy who left the job after the 2002 World Cup, Stephen Kenny’s name has also been mentioned but the fact he has only managed in the League Of Ireland and a short spell in Scotland may count against him although his achievements with Dundalk in the last few years cannot have escaped the notice of the FAI.
A man like Chris Houghton who currently is in charge at Brighton might just be a bold but popular choice with players and supporters alike. He has done good work as a coach and manager and has also played 57 times for Ireland always a handy bartering tool to have when it comes to negotiations.
Others like Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and a few more names will be included before the FAI make a formal announcement whenever they see fit. Like the IRFU if Joe Schmidt was to indicate he is leaving after the 2019 World Cup , the FAI cannot rush this decision and will need to tread carefully in there interview process.
The FAI also need to come up with a plan of how it plans to work and function over the next few years so the grassroots understands what is required of the next generation of players coming through.
The issues of player eligibility need to be addressed also, we don’t need another Declan Rice situation although I suspect we may have a few more similar scenarios before it all gets ironed out. FIFA also needs to pull its socks up and really clear up this gray area for all nations not just Ireland.
The FAI has a big decision to make in the next few months, so John Delaney and the FAI Board need there thinking caps on and make the correct call for the good of Irish Football…..