Keane’s Villa role no problem, reiterates boss O’Neill

Martin O'Neill at the draw for the FAI Cup third round, which took place yesterday.

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill has reiterated he has no problem with Roy Keane taking up his new role as assistant manager with Aston Villa.

Speaking immediately after the draw for the FAI Cup third round was held in the Park Hotel, Mullingar yesterday, O’Neill said: “The main thing is Roy is there when the players are there and that is the main part of the job.

“Paul Lambert made it clear he would give Roy the time off and it wouldn’t interfere with anything he would be doing with us. Did I feel that was awkward? No, I don’t. When I think about the days I actually see Roy, we keep in touch with each other and occasionally we meet up with each other just for updates. But, overall, the job he was doing for me and the time he is here will remain the same, so I have no problem with that. The FAI and Aston Villa have agreed on all those things so I don’t see a problem.”

When asked if he had worked out a way of maximising the efforts of striker Robbie Keane, who has just turned 34, O’Neill responded by saying, “Robbie is the one that scores goals, even though he missed a penalty against Costa Rica, and perhaps at times he is a little off form, but he is a goalscorer and can score goals, certainly for the Republic of Ireland and I am not in a position to be able to turn people away. I will have to manage that situation to see whether he is capable of playing a certain number of games and I realise he is not getting any younger but it is a situation I will monitor closer to the time.”

When it was put to O’Neill that this can be a difficult time for players, with so many changing clubs, the Derry man felt the players should face the situations head on. The Irish manager said: “Players have to see this time of year as a challenge, for example Richard Dunne extended his contract with QPR, then they get promoted, then they sign Caulker and Ferdinand, do I see that as a problem for Dunne. I would say he expects that and that he is an experienced player and looking forward to the challenge. That is club level for you, that is their job. But I have said from the start, that I am not really in a position to exclude people, but sometimes people with ability might exclude themselves.”

O’Neill was also positive on the prospects of Darron Gibson returning to the squad. “We will continue to monitor him but the lad has enough ability to be in our squad,” said O’Neill.

The manager is relaxed and looking forward to upcoming friendlies and European qualifiers. “I am rearing to go, it is getting very, very close,” he said.

“We have organised the game against Oman with the fact in mind that one or two of our players that we may be relying upon might not have played a great deal of club football.

“No one has come into the reckoning since I updated you all last but the thing I want to emphasise most once again is, over the course of the next 10 to 12 months, we will be playing quite a number of games in that time and I am hopeful some of the young lads will come through, maybe from the League of Ireland, you never know, but also from the players based in Britain and that they can claim a place and be worthy of playing.

“Obviously with the games coming up we will be relying on a lot of the squad that we have had for the last number of weeks.”

When asked if he had heard from Stephen Ireland, O’Neill replied, “I haven’t heard anything from Stephen Ireland... but it is holiday time.”

- O’Neill and FAI president Paddy McCaul, who steps down from his post this weekend at the FAI AGM in Athlone, made the draw for the FAI Cup third round and the outstanding fixture in the draw pitted Premier Division high flyers Cork City against Bohemians. Dundalk, victors over last year’s winners Sligo, will host Galway at Oriel Park. Non-league Malahide visit Derry, while Ballynanty Rovers of Limerick will be at home to Drogheda. Shamrock Rovers will face First Division leaders Longford Town, while there is a Dublin derby as St.Pat’s face Shelbourne.


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