By Liam Mackey in Versailles
Martin O’Neill has said that whether or not some of the senior Irish players choose to hang up their international boots following the team’s exit from Euro 2016 will be entirely up to them.
The manager has made a point of paying tribute to their input, on and off the pitch, into the squad’s achievement in reaching the round of 16 of the Euro Finals where they were eliminated by hosts France in Lyon yesterday.
Speaking back at the Irish tournament base in Versailles, from which the squad flies home to Dublin this afternoon, the manager said of the possible retirement of veterans like Robbie Keane and John O’Shea: "That decision will be up to the players but I would like to say the players you've mentioned, and I include Glenn Whelan as well, have been really terrific around the team.
"I wouldn't have been without them in that sense. It's only when you are in the tournament that you realise how influential those players can be. I think they took the disappointment of (not being picked) for the third game into consideration but never let their disappointment show at all. They were the first ones up to support the team. So it’s entirely up to them."
O’Neill indicated that he expects the management team’s verbal contract extension with the FAI to be officially ratified in due course.
“My contract officially ended about a minute and a half after the result against France,” he pointed out with a smile. “But I don't see that being an issue now. I've agreed with John (Delaney) and would be happy to continue on if he's still feeling that way.
”I'd like Roy to stay and I will sit down with him. To a certain extent I'm misleading you: those conversations have mostly taken place. I think he would like to do it and I think we're pretty well all in place if the FAI board want us to continue on.”
On the morning after the 2-1 loss to French, O’Neill was still feeling the pain of defeat but, overall, he said he was proud of how the team had performed at the tournament.
"I'm still a bit disappointed we couldn't carry it through,” he said.
“We were in a great position at half-time and the goals we conceded were not brilliant from our viewpoint. But to take it all into consideration, I’m very proud of team and of the the support we received. People in Ireland can be very proud of the team.”