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Martin O'Neill to lead Republic of Ireland into 2018 World Cup qualifying

Published 07/06/2016

Martin O'Neill has signed a new contract as Republic of Ireland manager through to 2018
Martin O'Neill has signed a new contract as Republic of Ireland manager through to 2018

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will lead the Republic of Ireland into 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after extending their contracts.

The pair, along with staff members Steve Guppy, Seamus McDonagh and Steve Walford, are to remain in post for a further two years after guiding the Republic to the Euro 2016 finals.

O'Neill, who will head for France with his coaching team and players on Wednesday, told the Football Association of Ireland's official website, www.fai.ie: "I am delighted that [chief executive] John Delaney and the FAI Board have extended our contracts for the World Cup campaign.

"It has been an absolute privilege to have been in charge of the Republic of Ireland national team these last 30 months, and we go to France tomorrow in good spirits with a strong desire to do well in the next few weeks.

"The players have done brilliantly in the campaign so far and they are ready for the big challenges ahead."

Talks over retaining the services of a management team which has been in place since November 2013 have been ongoing for some time and O'Neill has remained relaxed throughout.

But the news will come as a relief to those who feared the lure of a return to club management could tempt one, if not both, of the men who have formed an unlikely, but so far successful, partnership.

Even before Ireland saw off Bosnia-Herzegovina in a two-legged play-off to clinch their ticket for the Euros, there was an appetite to build upon the foundations which had been put in place, and Delaney was delighted to have tied up the 64-year-old manager and his 44-year-old sidekick.

Delaney said: "I am delighted we have agreed terms with Martin and his team of Roy Keane, Steve Guppy, Seamus McDonagh and Steve Walford.

"The board of the FAI were unanimous in offering Martin and his full management team a renewal of their contracts.

"Since Martin has taken over, we have achieved the objective of qualifying for the Euros and he has led the project in helping to develop some of the emerging talents in Irish football, including Robbie Brady and Shane Duffy, right up to the recent introduction of Callum O'Dowda, who made his senior debut last week.

"I am delighted to have worked with Martin and his team through qualification for the Euros, and I and all of the staff in the association look forward to working with them into the future."

The last two and a half years has not been without incident on and off the pitch with the high-profile management duo making more than their fair share of headlines.

In the last week or so, O'Neill has felt the need to apologise for an off-colour remark made during a send-off for the squad in Cork, while Keane has smoothed over the repercussions of some of the typically forthright comments he made in the wake of last Tuesday's 2-1 friendly defeat by Belarus with winger Aiden McGeady one of those caught in the cross fire.

Speaking in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon, Keane said: "I'm not going into what I say and don't say to the players privately. I've spoken to a few of the players, not just Aiden, and I've done that throughout my career.

"I've no problem in speaking to players, staff members, if I feel I've gone overboard. That isn't an issue for me.

"I'm not going into any sort of conversations I would have had with individuals or group of players. That's private, we move on, we get ready for next week."

Meanwhile, Keane confirmed that striker Jonathan Walters remains the biggest injury concern ahead of Monday night's Group E opener against Sweden as he battles a calf problem.

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