Ireland manger Martin O’Neill voiced his willingness to carry on in the job beyond this qualifying campaign. O’Neill hinted that his staff and FAI head honchos are both keen to extend his stewardship whether or not they qualify for Russia 2018.
“I think there’s a willingness on both sides. I had a conversation with John (Delaney) not so very long ago and John would like me to continue. I certainly would be looking forward to it.”
“I don’t think today is the day to discuss it, but I must admit that with some of the Euros games in Dublin, I think there are exciting times ahead.”
Later the same day details of a new contract were announced.
The fact that O’Neill was looking forward to Euro 2020 suggested he knew he’d be staying on. Given this qualifying campaign has yet to reach its resolution and our chances of going to Russia are minute, should the FAI be making such a decision at this juncture?
We’ve faced this situation in the past. Giovanni Trapattoni was given a new deal before a disastrous showing at Euro 2012. Mick McCarthy too, signed a new deal on the back of an excellent 2002 World Cup only for the wheels to come off during the Euro 2004 qualifiers.
Given that O’Neill and his players could yet emerge from this group with nothing but summer holidays to book, a new deal seems remiss at this point.
The manager himself is confident that there’s a bright future for the squad despite it’s age profile.
“We’ve looked at the fact that there are some young players coming through – I say ‘young players’, I’m talking about mid-20s – who hopefully will take on the mantle of the older players when they drop out of the squad, so I think there is much to look forward to.”
It seems a strange statement for the manager to make given his reluctance to include any players without extensive experience in the top two tiers of English football. Players like Daryl Horgan and Seanie Maguire – both in their mid-twenties – who offer genuine contrast to our established options have been overlooked.
He has persisted with Glenn Whelan in the middle of the park when he is clearly on the wane and often struggles to compete in terms of mobility and composure. More industrious players like Stephen Quinn, David Meyler and Eunan O’Kane have all struggled for playing time under O’Neill. They may not be the long-term solution but they are all viable under-used options.
Maguire’s situation in particular is worrying. Our current striking options Shane Long and Daryl Murphy – John Walters plays if he’s fits but only as a number nine if neither of the former are available – have served us well over the years, but neither of them could be considered prolific. All three are already over 30, and at 34 this could quite conceivably be both Murphy and Walter’s final campaign. Maguire is an unknown quantity at international level but given the predictability of O’Neill’s Ireland sides that could be a good thing.
If O’Neill were as excited about the future as he claims to be Maguire, Horgan maybe even the likes of Reading’s Liam Kelly could have been properly tried and tested by now.
O’Neill has been branded a lucky manager in the past, he will need a lot of luck if we are to qualify for Russia.
If we don’t, we will be heading into Euro 2020 qualifiers possibly without the likes of Murphy, Walters and John O’Shea. Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark will be regarded as senior players. Beyond that there will be a glut of experience.
Is O’Neill the right man to rejuvenate and rebuild the squad?
Stephen Vaughan, Pundit Arena