Old Bhoy O’Neill cool on return to Paradise

Parkhead has known some great European nights, but the meeting of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland at the Glasgow ground on November 14 in Group D of the European Championships is almost guaranteed to go down alongside the most memorable.

With Hampden Park unavailable due to the Commonwealth Games, Celtic Park always looked like the most obvious venue, and the Scottish FA duly confirmed the Hoops’ ground as their stadium for choice for the fixture last week.

The connection between Celtic and this island needs little elaboration and the return of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane to ‘Paradise’ in their guise as Ireland’s brains trust has assured the fixture an even greater significance.

O’Neill claimed three league titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup in five years as the club’s manager. He also took them to the final of the 2003 Uefa Cup and boosting their fortunes in the Champions League.

Keane played only 10 games and lasted just six months with Celtic towards the end of a glittering career, but he still enjoyed hero status among fans, many thousands of whom attended his testimonial game at Old Trafford.

However, both men were dismissive of the suggestion that the ties between that half of Glasgow and Ireland, or their own history with the club, would have any bearing on loyalties of the outcome come November.

“I enjoyed great days at Celtic,” said O’Neill. “It’s a great football club, one of the best in the world, but there are some players who play for Scotland and Celtic who might have an influence on the game as well so and they might be quite pleased it is being played at Celtic rather than Ibrox.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but I assume that the Scottish FA have gone for the larger stadium. It holds 60,000 whereas Ibrox is 50,000. There is extra revenue, things like that.

“They would feel, regardless of whether I had been manager or not, that they have players who play for Scotland and for Celtic recently and that that might negate it. I am sure they have taken all that into consideration.”

Keane will be well into his stint as assistant manager to Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert by then — assuming the Scotsman is still in the role at that point — having been appointed to the role earlier this summer.

How he will juggle both bibs and whether it is an accommodation that can continue on a long-term basis remains to be seen, but the former Manchester United captain is adamant serving two bosses will be no issue.

“Easy. What do you want me to tell you? I’ll get up at half-six every morning and drive to work... It should be no problem. I’m getting fed up with why people are so worried about that.”


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