Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill is determined to join namesake Michael at Euro 2016 finals
Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill is determined to join namesake Michael at the Euro 2016 finals as he plots a way past Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The 63-year-old looked on as Northern Ireland counterpart Michael O'Neill guided his team to next summer's showcase in France last month, in the process joining England's Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman of Wales.
As a native of Derry, the Republic boss was delighted to see the country of his birth reach a first major finals since 1986, but his pleasure will not be complete until he ensures his own presence at the tournament.
He said: "Since I'm from Northern Ireland, I'm delighted with them qualifying. Michael has deserved it, he has done very, very well indeed and it's been a great effort by them.
"Obviously I think it would be fantastic if both countries could qualify for the competition. I was involved with Northern Ireland a way back in 1982 in the World Cup, and it was just really, really fantastic.
"It was a fantastic time and if you go there and perform well, it's a real added bonus.
"We have still to get there. At least Michael is there and tonight, I'm quite sure he's having a cigarette somewhere, smoking, enjoying himself, the same with Roy Hodgson and the same with Chris Coleman.
"It's great. I feel envious that they are in those positions. I'd like to join them on Monday night if it's at all possible - and so will my counterpart here in Bosnia, he will feel exactly the same. It would be nice.
"I hope Michael takes that cigarette out of his mouth now and stops smoking."
If the two O'Neills are to share a stage in France, the older man will have to mastermind victory over Bosnia in a shoot-out which looks increasingly tricky.
Ireland are without suspended duo John O'Shea and Jonathan Walters and injury victims Shay Given, Shane Long and new addition to the casualty list, David Meyler, who suffered a knee injury in training on Wednesday, for the first leg in Zenica on Friday evening.
Four years ago to the week, they managed successfully to get past Estonia to make it to the finals of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, although O'Neill is well aware of the contrasting emotions he could experience in Dublin on Monday evening.
He said: "I suppose it is a bit like the play-offs at home. If you make it into the big league, the players and managers will tell you there's no better way. If it doesn't happen, then it will be painful.
"But we're here and have got to give it everything we've got. We can't leave anything behind us, and I think that's the mood of the players."
Central defender Richard Keogh could be one of the beneficiaries of O'Shea's enforced absence, and whoever lines up at the back faces the daunting prospect of keeping Bosnia skipper Edin Dzeko at bay.
The Manchester City striker is currently on loan at Roma and is back in goalscoring form after recovering from injury.
Keogh said: "He's obviously a very high calibre player and plays for a great team. You don't win the Premier League if you're not a great player.
"Like any professional, you want to play against the best players and he's right up there. It depends if I'm selected, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"Any game you go into, you want to keep a clean sheet. If we do that, we know that we have got some great players in this team who can produce some magic and hopefully score a few goals."
Belfast Telegraph Digital