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Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have signed two-year Ireland contract

Updated: Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 23:43 | Comments

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are understood to have signed two-year contracts
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are understood to have signed two-year contracts

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Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane have been confirmed as the Republic of Ireland's new managerial team.

The 61-year-old Ulsterman and the 42-year-old former Manchester United and Ireland skipper have signed initial two-year contracts after concluding talks with the Football Association of Ireland.

The news came on Tuesday evening hours after FAI Chief Executive John Delaney confirmed that the appointments were imminent.

The two were cast immediately into the spotlight as analysts on ITV's Champions League coverage and O'Neill confirmed that he and Keane are the new Irish management team.

When asked why he chose Keane as his assistant, O'Neill joked: "I've asked myself that many a time in the last 48 hours, but he's coming with me. Personally speaking I think he'll be great for me but more importantly he'll be great for the Republic of Ireland.

"I think I'm the bad cop, and I think he's the bad-bad cop, but I'm excited by it. I'm looking forward to it, really."

Keane echoed O'Neill comments and said: "It's fantastic news, I'm delighted obviously, honoured that Martin's asked me to go and help him with the team. I'm looking forward to working with the players and trying to get to the Euros."

The FAI confirmed the duo would be in charge for next month's friendly against Latvia.

But their task in the long term is to lead the nation to the finals of Euro 2016, the qualifying tournament for which gets under way in September next year.

The association said: "The Football Association of Ireland this evening ... confirmed that Martin O'Neill will be Ireland's next manager, taking up the position when the Irish team meets up on the evening of November 11 to prepare for two friendly matches against Latvia and Poland."

Speaking to RTÉ this afternoon, Delaney revealed that the appointment was something that was years in the making.

"We've wanted Martin O'Neill for a long time, not just this time around," he said.

"When Martin said yes, we were all thrilled. He's a passionate Irishman, he's a great man manager and I think he's the right man to manage Ireland."

The revelation that Keane would be the assistant manager has raised many eyebrows over recent days, but Delaney said this was something O'Neill requested.

Delaney said: "He said it to me last week over a meal. I actually said no problem ... your job is appointing the management team - and I come from the school that the manager appoints the management team."

Asked about any possible friction between the association and Keane, Delaney admitted he and Keane had discussed the past "for 30 seconds" but sought to look to the future.

"Irish football & our country is bigger than anything.Two icons of Irish football can work together with us. The past is in the past," he said.

"I'm excited by it. I'm looking forward to it, really" - Martin O'Neill

O'Neill was identified as the FAI's primary choice within days of Trapattoni's departure following the defeats by Sweden and Austria, which effectively ended Ireland's hopes of making it to next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil.

However, the FAI has allowed the 61-year-old, who has been out of the game since being shown the door by Sunderland in March, to take his time over his decision.

In the meantime, Ray Houghton and FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter were charged with the task of assessing alternative candidates.

But all along, the power brokers have been hoping for a positive response from O'Neill, and things have moved on apace since he gave the first indications that he was ready to commit himself to Ireland.

Keane, of course, enjoyed a distinguished international career, but fell out spectacularly with then manager Mick McCarthy as they completed their preparations for the 2002 World Cup finals in the Far East and returned home without kicking a ball in anger.

Time appears to have healed any lingering wounds and there is little doubt that a link-up between two men who as individuals enjoy popular support will capture the imagination of fans who became disillusioned with Trapattoni's conservatism once results began to elude him.

The 74-year-old spent five-and-a-half years at the helm with businessman Denis O'Brien providing a significant proportion of the funding - he will continue his financial support - and that investment initially paid dividends.

O'Neill and Keane, who also had a spell in charge of the Black Cats, will launch their reign with a friendly against Latvia in Dublin on 15 November, when the FAI will hope the public vote with their feet by turning out in force, before heading for Poland four days later.

The serious business will begin in September next year when Ireland set out on the road to Euro 2016, hoping they can once again compete for a place at the finals of a major tournament.

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