Friday, 10 July 2015

O'NEILL'S RETURN TO LEICESTER A GODSEND FOR THE FAI

Rumours are emerging this afternoon that the Football Association of Ireland are happy to allow Martin O'Neill to vacate the Irish manager role to return to Premier League management with his old club Leicester City. Perhaps this is the best arrangement for both parties after an uninspired two years in charge at the Aviva Stadium.

D. Ray Morton, 10th July 2015.


Martin O'Neill looks likely to step down from the Ireland job after only joining in 2013

This afternoon, The Guardian are reporting that a bookmaker has halted bets on Martin O'Neill becoming Leicester City's new manager after the sacking of Nigel Pearson over a week ago. This means that he will vacate the Irish manager job likely leaving Roy Keane in charge of their failing European Championship qualification campaign.

Since O'Neill took over in 2013, his tenure in charge has seemed utterly uninspired. Irish fans expected O'Neill's tactics to be conservative but they felt he would bring an air of authority to the team after the shambles of Giovanni Trapatonni's last World Cup qualifying campaign. We got the conservative tactics part but we never got the inspiration. O'Neill completely failed to get anything positive out of his willing, albeit limited, squad. It all felt a bit like Paul Lambert at Aston Villa. Decent manager, terrible situation.

Failing to convince Jack Grealish to play for Ireland aside, O'Neill persisted with a deeply negative 4-5-1 system as Scotland, our main rivals in qualification, went with attacking football which ultimately outdid us over two close fixtures. Currently Wales are ranked 10th in the FIFA world rankings. Ireland are not even in the top fifty. This would have been unthinkable some years back but we really have been overtaken. We live in an era where the small teams of Europe are emerging, yet Ireland stays stuck in the mud. This is across the board too. Last night, Cork City FC were knocked out of the Europa League by an Icelandic (Iceland themselves looking a good shout for Euro 2016 qualification) team. The League of Ireland has never been considered hugely competitive but being outdone by minnows like KR Reykjavik was an unwelcome extra kick in the teeth.

Back to Ireland and O'Neill though. The current campaign, let us face facts, is done. Keano will preside over a series of dead fixtures but is unlikely to stay on as a permanent manager. The FAI will have a lot of time to come up with the new guy. They have to get this right or else Ireland will continue to sink. We will be 4th seeds in the draw for the World Cup qualifiers after the Euros. This is a pretty terrifying prospect. Thinking hat on, John Delaney.

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