Belfast Telegraph

Republic boss ready to integrate the next generation

By Damian Spellman

Martin O'Neill believes the Republic of Ireland's next generation will have the "drive and determination" to put themselves firmly on the road towards reaching Euro 2020.

O'Neill has finally put pen to paper on a contract extension with the Football Association of Ireland to remain as manager for the next qualifying campaign, after initially agreeing to do so in October.

The 65-year-old had been the leading candidate to take over at Stoke, where Paul Lambert was eventually appointed as successor to Mark Hughes.

Speculation over O'Neill's position increased following the 5-1 aggregate World Cup play-off defeat by Denmark which ended hopes of reaching the 2018 finals in Russia.

O'Neill accepted he had taken time for "a bit of reflection", but was always content his understanding with FAI chief executive John Delaney allowed for him to talk to other potential employers.

Now, though, O'Neill remains very much focused on the job of bringing the best out of the emerging talent and to provide a change of the guard.

"I am obviously pleased to do so (extend my contract)," O'Neill said.

"I had conversations with the FAI board. They wanted me to continue in the job and let's see how we progress.

"We have got a group of older players who have served the country absolutely brilliantly and we have a group of younger players trying to make their way at club level for a start, to establish themselves.

"One or two of them have a bit of experience now, not only with the qualifications for the (2016) Euros, but also the qualification and the disappointment of losing to Denmark in the play-offs for the World Cup.

"So I think, all of those things taken into consideration, that the younger players should have that drive and determination now to try and do something. I am staying, I am with the Republic of Ireland and am delighted to be so."

The Republic have been drawn into Group Four of League B in the Uefa Nations League, which will see fixtures against both Wales and the Danes.

O'Neill described the outcome as "deja vu", given how well they know both the rivals and that his squad would be looking to "avenge" their play-off loss.

Belfast Telegraph

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