Having scaled the highs of Lille, and Long versus the Germans, and having sunk to the lows of Denmark and a tepid Nations League campaign, the O’Neill-Keane era has come to an end “by mutual agreement”.
The Football Association of Ireland has remained tight-lipped on the terms on which Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane’s time in charge of the national team has ended.
However if the association has agreed to continue to pay the pair’s combined €2.6m-a-year salary until their contracts end in 2020 — or until they find new positions — it could cost the association in excess of €3m.
The FAI had awarded the management team a contract extension last January.
Mick McCarthy is the bookies’ favourite to takeover as manager for what would be his second spell in charge, with Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny and former England manager Sam Allardyce also among the names mentioned.
Pressure has also mounted on FAI chief executive John Delaney.
A petition calling for the end of his 13-year term as head of the association has generated over 7,700 signatures, while supporters group You Boys In Green has run an online poll in which 94% of over 2,500 respondents called for him to be replaced.
For its part, the FAI has said its board will meet “promptly” to discuss the process of recruiting a new manager — with some speculation that the urgency communicated in the association’s statement is driven by a desire to have their new manager in place in time for their showcase Euro 2020 qualifying group stage draw, due to take place in Dublin on Sunday week.
While the one-time “dream team” of Irish management endured a nightmare in the past 12 months, O’Neill and Keane’s five-year tenure at the helm of the national team delivered some special nights for the Boys In Green.
Robbie Brady’s header against Italy in Lille, James McClean slaying the dragons in Cardiff, and Ireland beating the then-world champions Germany at Lansdowne Road all stand out as highlights during the duo’s incumbency.
However failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup — and the thumping at home to Denmark in the qualifying play-off for that tournament — marked a turning point from which the management team never recovered.
Ireland went on to finish bottom of their group in their inaugural Nations League campaign — scoring just once in six games.
Only San Marino scored fewer goals of all 55 countries to take part in the competition.
O’Neill and Keane’s annus horribilis has also seen Ireland drop to third seeds for the Euro 2020 qualifying group stage draw.