Martin O'Neill can be steady pair of hands for Republic of Ireland
Published 12/09/2013 | 01:30
Former Northern Ireland skipper Michael O'Neill is the man the Republic of Ireland want to revive their fortunes.
The Kilrea man earned legendary status with his performances for Northern Ireland but now all the admiring glances are coming from the south as FAI officials ponder their next move following their split with Giovanni Trapattoni.
Trapattoni's reign as Republic of Ireland manager came to an end yesterday morning when the two parties agreed an amicable parting in the wake of Tuesday night's 1-0 World Cup qualifier defeat in Austria which effectively ended their hopes of making it to Brazil next summer.
O'Neill had already been installed as the bookmakers' favourite to replace the 74-year-old Italian even before his departure had been announced as it became clear his days in charge were drawing to a close.
The former Celtic, Sunderland and Aston Villa manager is keen to return to management and despite previously turning down the Northern Ireland post, saying he was too young for the job, the Republic role could bring him in from the cold.
O'Neill, capped 64 times by Northern Ireland, was shown the door by Sunderland in March but he's now top of the FAI wishlist.
However, chief executive John Delaney insists the FAI Board will not rush to make a decision as it considers its options.
Delaney said: "The Board will meet within the next week.
"Today was a day to deal with Giovanni and [assistant manager] Marco [Tardelli] in a dignified manner, and hopefully people will respect the job he has done.
"We will meet and will determine a process. We do have time.
"The European qualifiers don't start until next September. We will take stock of the last couple of days and then discuss the process."
O'Neill is not the only potential candidate to fill the vacancy, with former Republic manager Mick McCarthy, currently at Ipswich, his captain Roy Keane and current Norwich boss Chris Hughton also figuring prominently in the betting. Delaney said: "I think there will be plenty of interest because first of all, 24 teams go to the European Championships, it's genuinely accepted we have a good crop of young players and the monetary incentive has been good over the last number of years.
"The knowledge of the Irish job because of Trapattoni across Europe has created interest in managing the Irish team.
"It will be interesting to see who puts their best foot forward." Asked specifically about Keane, who famously returned home from the Far East before the 2002 World Cup finals had started, Delaney said, laughing: "I don't think I will comment on any individual."
He added: "I think names like Mick, Brian McDermott, Chris Hughton, Roy Keane all come into the pot – Martin O'Neill, of course.
"I wouldn't want to comment on any individual chances. Mick has done a very good job for Ireland and in England as well.
"The last four or five days have been difficult for everyone in Irish football. It was important to get a decision made in a dignified way."
The collective fate of Trapattoni and Tardelli was sealed at the Ernst Happel Stadion when David Alaba's late winner left the Republic needing to win both of their remaining qualifiers against Germany, who need one more win to ensure top spot, and Kazakhstan handsomely and Sweden to lose their last two fixtures to secure an improbable passage to the finals.
Trapattoni said: "I want to thank everyone in Ireland who has given us their support during our time here, which has always meant a lot to us.
"We leave this country with emotion because we understand the Irish supporters who have a well-deserved international reputation and they have our utmost respect.
"I would like to thank John Delaney, [FAI president] Paddy McCaul, [honorary secretary] Michael Cody and the FAI Board for their support and friendship over the last five and a half years. I would also want to thank all FAI staff members, including the backroom team and the players, who have been great to work with during the last three campaigns."