Belfast Telegraph

Martin O'Neill in one-horse race for Republic of Ireland job

By Robert Jones

Martin O'Neill will be the next Republic of Ireland football manager – unless he himself turns the job down.

O'Neill – a former Northern Ireland captain – is the unanimous choice of the FAI's Board of Management to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni and will be paid €1.25m (£1m) a year should he accept.

It's possible the Kilrea man (right) could be appointed Ireland manager as early as this week – but O'Neill is a stickler for contract details and won't sign anything until every 'i' and 't' has been dotted and crossed.

He knows already that he is in a one-horse race – and such short odds with the bookies that it's hardly worth putting a bet on.

The FAI board is due to have a meeting early this week to green-light the approach to O'Neill.

Should the out-of-work manager turn them down, then other names such as former boss Mick McCarthy and ex-Inter Milan coach Hector Cuper will come into consideration.

Cuper is described as a "football obsessive" and is said to be very keen to do the job, and the FAI are aware of his interest.

His entrance into the race indicates that there is a broader demand for the job than the names initially mentioned but the FAI will widen their search only if O'Neill is not interested and decides he would prefer a return to club management.

FAI chief executive John Delaney yesterday dismissed the suggestion that his turbulent relationship with Roy Keane would prevent the former Republic captain being considered.

"The past is the past. We move on," Delaney said.

While Keane, Cuper and others will stay under consideraion, O'Neill is the only candidate who could be appointed in time for the forthcoming game away to Germany.

The FAI are hopeful the Ulsterman would get a reaction from the players which would ensure a healthy attendance for the home game against Kazakhstan.

In the unlikely event that O'Neill is not appointed, the FAI would then begin a process which would involve a thorough search across the world, boosted by Denis O'Brien's support.

Cuper's entry into the race indicates that they could attract candidates of a high calibre if they were seeking an alternative to O'Neill. Some within the FAI are surprised at the pace at which events moved last week. Once Trapattoni departed, O'Neill was always the preferred candidate.

Initially, it was seen as preferable but unlikely that he would take the job before the game in Cologne, but now it is considered probable that he will be appointed in time for the final two matches in the group next month.

O'Neill's only comment on the matter was last week, when he said that no-one from the FAI had yet approached him.

A few years back he said he was "too young" to become an international football manager.

He is 61 now, unemployed and times have changed.

Belfast Telegraph


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