FAI chief executive John Delaney has confirmed he told Martin O’Neill he should never have said his job as Ireland manager would depend on qualification for Euro 2016.
And, pointing out that O’Neill made the remarks when first unveiled in his post, Delaney added with a smile that he thinks the manager regretted saying what he said the moment he saw how difficult Ireland’s Euro Championship group was going to be.
“We want to qualify,” said Delaney yesterday. “That is something we want to do. We are here to qualify. I think Martin said that before the group draw. We got possibly, arguably, the most difficult group of all the groups, with Germany the world champions, Poland, and Scotland being resurgent. There is no doubt it is a very difficult group. So when Martin said what he said in terms of ‘if we don’t qualify, I should go’, or words to that effect, we had a discussion and I said, ‘there was really no need to say that’. And when the draw came out, I think he possibly regretted it (laughs).”
On recent indications from O’Neill that he would be open to a second term as manager, Delaney observed: “It is always positive to hear that the senior manager is very happy in the job. I am meeting him, and Roy, later on down in Cork, and from his point of view there are two big games coming up. Possibly two more in November.
“The great thing is we are back in it. I don’t think we were ever out of it but we were written off too quick after the game in June. Results have gone our way in September but they could go the other way in October just as easily as they’ve come our way.
“The thing, as always, is to let the games take place, let us see where we finish up post-October or post-November and then we’ll sit down and see what we do.”
Asked by the Irish Examiner if, in principle, he agrees with the idea that — barring catastrophe — international management warrants at least two full campaigns, the FAI boss replied: “It all depends on whether the manager wants to stay, as a principle, and whether the employers want that person to stay.
“All I can say is that I really enjoy working with Martin O’Neill. He is a good guy to work with, a very straight guy, and my staff enjoy working with him. We really do. We will see how the games work out in October and November. And after that then we’ll sit down and talk to Martin.”
Assessing how the manager has fared to date, Delaney insisted: “He has done well. He has done fine. He has done really fine. I always felt that it was always going to go to the last game. Such was the nature of the teams in the group, points were going to be taken off everybody.
“The interesting thing is how Poland will address the Scotland game because, potentially, a draw is the same as a loss depending on our results.
“They may have an assumption about the Germany game — we don’t — but I think Poland will go to Scotland looking to win.”
On the financial implications of qualifying for the Euros, Delaney said that, at a minimum, it would be worth in the region of €8m to the FAI and, although he repeated that the association never factors qualification into its financial projections, he added that, with next month’s Germany game at the Aviva already hitting 49,000 sales — and following on from sold-out matches against Scotland, Poland and England earlier this year — 2015 is shaping up to be one of the better recent years financially.
“We will be in around a five or six million pound profit, irrespective of qualification this year,” he said. “It is a good financial year for sure but it will be better certainly if we qualify.”
Delaney was speaking at yesterday’s launch of the new colleges and universities football season for men and women which will see some 200 games played by students around the country between kick-off in October and next April.
The FAI boss indicated that, if requested, competition finals could be played at the new National Training Centre at Abbotstown where yesterday’s launch took place.
“We have the six pitches there and if the request comes in I’d be favourably disposed to doing that, not a problem,” he said.
And on the importance of links between colleges and universities and senior football in Ireland, Delaney commented: “The more work the League of Ireland clubs can do and we (in the FAI) can do with third level education, the better the chance you have of keeping people in Ireland, getting them educated and, if they want to play at a higher level in time, that’s fine.”
For further information on the new colleges and universities season see www.thirdlevelfootball.ie
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