Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill shakes hands but has yet to sign new Republic of Ireland contract

By Damian Spellman

Martin O'Neill has revealed he headed for the Euro 2016 finals with his contract extension as Republic of Ireland manager only verbally agreed.

The Football Association of Ireland announced on Tuesday evening that the 64-year-old, assistant Roy Keane and coaches Steve Guppy, Seamus McDonagh and Steve Walford had all agreed to remain in post for the World Cup qualifying campaign which gets under way in September.

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However, asked about his new deal for the first time by the media after putting his players through their paces at an open training session at the Stade de Montbauron in Versailles yesterday, O'Neill admitted it is yet to be physically signed.

He said: "I've shaken hands with [chief executive] John [Delaney], that's all that's necessary. John felt that going into the Euros it might be a decent thing to do, so fine. I'm happy with it.

"John and I had a conversation, I've shaken hands with him and I have implicit trust in him."

News of the contracts came as a boost as the squad prepared to fly out to France, although O'Neill is not convinced it made too much difference to the players he has guided to the finals over the last two and a half years.

He said: "I've always said this, the players play and want to play regardless of who is in charge. We've had a good run the last two years and we want to continue."

O'Neill's focus was firmly on Monday evening's opening fixture against Sweden. Four years ago, the Republic's campaign in Poland was effectively doomed from the off as they lost 3-1 to Croatia in their first game, and a repeat this time around could prove equally costly.

With Robbie Keane, Robbie Brady and James McCarthy all back in training, striker Jonathan Walters is the only real doubt as he battles a calf problem.

Asked about his readiness for Monday's game, O'Neill replied: "He has a few days yet and he's improving."

Should he not make it, O'Neill would have to shuffle his pack, perhaps with Brady moving into midfield and Stephen Ward coming into the back four.

However, the manager insisted: "We don't have to re-think everything. We have a squad of 23 and everyone is keen to play."

Belfast Telegraph