Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

FAI Boss John Delaney: 'It took just 37 seconds to put Roy Keane Saipan row behind us'

Martin O'Neill, left, and Roy Keane, right, signed two-year contracts with the FAI on Tuesday
Martin O'Neill, left, and Roy Keane, right, signed two-year contracts with the FAI on Tuesday

It took "37 seconds" for John Delaney and Roy Keane to deal with what had gone on in the past – and nobody once mentioned Saipan.

But the FAI chief has conceded that "certain things" the former Manchester United midfielder pointed out during that infamous debacle 11 years ago "he was correct to say, for sure".

 

It was a rather more generous admission than has been made to date – but the Irish football chief was feeling in an expansive mood.

 

Amidst the dusty glitter of a myriad of crystal trophies and miniature silver football boots that lined the tops of the cupboards in his office in the FAI's headquarters in Abbotstown, Co Dublin, the chief executive was busily fielding phone calls and doing interviews about the surprise announcement.

 

His mobile had been bouncing throughout the day to the vibration of "at least" 200 text messages coming in – and for once it was all good news.

 

"It's a new dawn and a new era," declared a beaming Delaney in an interview with the Irish Independent.

 

The choice of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane as Ireland's new 'dream team' had initially been a slow burner but in the end had all happened very quickly.

Around 10 days ago, they got word that Martin O'Neill would "like to be spoken to about the job".

 

"Less than a week ago, he said he'd like the job," revealed Delaney.

 

The news was well received: "For a long time we wanted Martin O'Neill to manage the Irish team."

That O'Neill wanted Keane to come with him was "absolutely not a problem", he claimed.

 

"I wouldn't ask him to tell me who my commercial manager should be and I certainly wouldn't tell him who his assistant manager should be," said Delaney.

He initially met O'Neill on his own and subsequently met him with Keane in the lobby of a London hotel. The meeting was warm and friendly and the two former adversaries shook hands.

 

"I know there's been a lot made of my relationship with Roy personally or with the FAI but that's in the past," said Delaney emphatically.

 

It took "37 seconds" to dispatch what had happened in the past.

 

"All I said was 'listen, a lot has gone on in the past, let's forget about it and move on and I hope the three of us can work together for the sake of Irish football,'" Delaney said.

 

Not that he doesn't anticipate spats in the future.

 

"You can never say that," he laughed.

 

"Christmas Day there are always spats in any family – that's football, that's life, that's what happens."

 

"But nothing that will be insurmountable," added Delaney. "We're all on the same page here. We all want us to do well."

 

Put to him that Keane had made scathing comments in the past about 'FAI suits', Delaney chuckled: "He did – and maybe some were right and some were wrong.

 

"It doesn't matter. There's a context at the time for comments like that.

 

'We've all made comments, me included, which you regret but they're made in a certain context and the context now is working together to get to major tournaments.

 

"The past is gone," he added.

 

Asked whether Keane had a point, Delaney said: "It's never black or white, it's grey. Certain things he pointed out he was correct to say, for sure. But that's all gone by now. It's a different organisation," he said of the FAI.

 

And to a suggestion that Keane has mellowed with age, Delaney shot back: "I think we all have.

 

"I was very impressed by him, I must say, by the couple of meetings I've had with him," he added.

 

The players are delighted, revealed Delaney, adding that he has spoken with captain Robbie Keane who rates both men "very highly".

 

Even the critics will be "very positive" – but ultimately, it goes back to results, he said.

 

Describing Keane as a great player for Manchester and a great player for Ireland, he says he is "obviously happy" to take the role as number two, because he and O'Neill have sat down and extensively discussed it.

 

At a press conference in Dublin on Saturday, O'Neill will explain what their working relationship will be and what he will expect Keane to do. Acknowledging that the spirit of Irish football had flagged, Delaney believes that this new management team is a "huge positive dynamic" that will get the Irish public at large energised and talking about football in a positive way.

 

"It had gone a bit flat. We qualified for a major tournament for the first time in 10 years. (Giovanni) Trapattoni did a very good job for us."

 

But morale had been low, he conceded.

 

"We hadn't achieved well in the Euros and did not qualify for the World Cup. It needed an appointment to get people going again."

 

And this time round, they wanted an Irish appointment.

 

But this new management team is not just to fill the Aviva – however welcome that may be for the FAI. The real target is success and getting to France in 2016.

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