O'Neill takes up Republic of Ireland reins despite delay in inking the deal

By Tony Leen, Irish Examiner Sports Editor

The contract isn't formally signed but Martin O'Neill is the new Republic of Ireland manager.

With Roy Keane already onside as his No 2, O Neill committed verbally to the position late Friday and should formally ink the deal within the next few days.

Interestingly O'Neill has already intimated to close associates that he sees this as a long term project. He has already identified a number of promising youngsters whom he hopes will declare for the Republic over Northern Ireland. Liverpool's Ryan McLoughlin is one such talent.

O'Neill will be the coach to the Republic's players. With Keane his assistant. Of course the dynamic between the pair will be informative but O'Neill may also draft in an additional coach to help out.

However that won't be John Robertson who has had some health issues.

Interestingly, I understand that O'Neills terms and conditions are every bit as lucrative as those afforded to his predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni and may even better them. But O Neill is more driven by legacy than money at this stage. He thinks he could spend the next decade as Irish manager.

He may travel to Dublin in next 24 hours to finalise contracts with the FAI, facilitating a formal announcement early next week.

The Keane connection is fascinating: he came as part of the O'Neill package and was not headhunted by the FAI. But together they are box office and initial reaction from the public indicates they'll spin the turnstiles in a way few others could for Ireland.

The meeting in London with FAI chief John Delaney was productive for O'Neill and convinced him this was a good fit.

It is presumed Mick McCarthy has been told at this stage that the position is no longer up for grabs.

He was the only realistic alternative once Guus Hiddink - who the FAI were prepared to splash

extra cash for - let it be known he was not interested in the job.

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