MARTIN O’NEILL says he expects Roy Keane to remain on as his Ireland assistant manager for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign despite not yet signing a contract extension.
While the FAI announced three weeks ago that the managerial pair have agreed to stay on, O’Neill yesterday admitted the contracts are not rubberstamped. That leaves the potential for either O’Neill or Keane to be approached for club positions, and their stock has risen for guiding Ireland to the upcoming World Cup play-off against Denmark.
With the first leg of the play-off in Copenhagen fast approaching on November 11, O’Neill indicated there was no rush to sign-off on the renewal and is confident Keane will opt to stay put as his sidekick.
“We have agreement with John Delaney but nothing has been signed up,” said O’Neill. “It was the same situation as the last time and I think Roy would want to stay around. I’m not his keeper but I’m sure he would like to stay around because he enjoys the job.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill admits the long-awaited return to action of James McCarthy is one reason for Ireland to overcome the absence of David Meyler for the first leg. A booking for the Cork native in the win over Wales, his second game in a row captaining Ireland, resulted in a one-match ban.
“Meyler has stepped in and done brilliantly,” said O’Neill, who managed the player at Sunderland. “I think he’s got to be very pleased with his contribution, not just on the pitch but about the place when he hasn’t played. He’s been an excellent influence.
“And so for all the enthusiasm, that bit of energy he brings, he’s been rewarded, including the captaincy.
“Given his performances lately, Meyler would be hard to replace. James coming back is a plus for us, once he doesn’t pick up another injury.”
On the topic of Cork-born midfielders, O’Neill insists Alan Browne was worthy of a recall to the squad.
“Alan is a strong running player who is improving,” he explained. “It’s nice to see that he’s become a settled fixture now with Preston North End. There are some midfield players who are in front of him in the Ireland squad at the moment but Alan’s got a great attitude.”