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O'Neill's Stoke move could be short-term deal as Ireland boss holds opening talks

By Miguel Delaney

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has had a first meeting with Stoke City, as the Premier League club look to replace Mark Hughes as manager.

The 65-year-old is keen on a return to club management after just over four years with Republic of Ireland, while Stoke feel he has the experience and nous to save them from relegation.

The Bet365 Stadium hierarchy had initially wanted Gary Rowett only for the Derby County boss to sign a new deal at Pride Park, but there would be no such issues with O'Neill since he has not yet put pen to paper on a new contract with the Football Association of Ireland and his last one has now expired.

While there had been some talk that O'Neill might be allowed to do both jobs since Ireland do not even have a friendly match until March, nor a competitive game until September, Stoke would prefer an exclusive deal.

There is still the possibility it could be a short-term deal, however, since they are also interested in former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores. He is seen as difficult to bring in from Espanyol now, so could instead be an option for the summer.

If Stoke do agree a deal with O'Neill, it is expected that Irish assistant manager Roy Keane would join him, as would most of his backroom staff.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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