As the man who recruited both Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane during his tenure as Sunderland chief executive, Niall Quinn is even surer the fusion of the pair will deliver for Ireland.
Quinn remains baffled at the decision of Sunderland owner Ellis Short to sack O’Neill last March, though chuffed the parting enabled the FAI to nestle the Derryman into the box seat for the upcoming Euro 2016 campaign.
Keane, too, is someone the former Ireland striker considers the right man in the right role as O’Neill’s sidekick. Speaking yesterday at the opening of an all-weather pitch at the Tigin Rehabilitation centre in Ashford, Co Wicklow, Quinn pointed out any of the negatives associated with Keane’s crash-course in management at Sunderland and Ipswich should be neutralised by the arrangement O’Neill has put together.
“This thing has really worked well,” remarked Quinn in relation to the duo’s first assignments on the job, the win over Latvia last Friday week and the subsequent draw in Poland four days later.
“Their first few weeks together were bedlam, but there’s a great platform now to build between the two. There’s obviously huge respect there and Martin always had a soft spot for Roy, I knew that.
“What’s essential for the two of them is Martin’s message is being added to by Roy. And the rub-off from that is the brilliant thing Roy has, which young players will benefit enormously from.
“The obvious one being James McCarthy. It might be just a little bit of switching around in his approach and what he needs to be doing in certain areas on the pitch. I don’t think Martin could have a better person in the world with him to do that.”
With no friendlies planned until March, and a further six months until competitive qualifiers begin, Quinn believes the interim will be consumed by the Irish managerial axis assessing every avenue possible to improving the team.
Quinn didn’t need much prompting to cite the previous regime’s approach as the model to avoid. He said: “Between Martin and Roy, there’s been an automatic lift to the players and fans but they’ll also have their eye on the U21s, the U19s and the League of Ireland. That’s great because I just felt, under Giovanni Trapattoni, it wasn’t even lip service.
“They’ll be out watching matches and talking to players. When, back in 1986, Jack Charlton first came to see me playing for Arsenal and we chatted in the players’ lounge afterwards, I couldn’t breathe, I was that excited.
“Just a little pat on the back to our 18 or 19-year-olds by Martin or Roy will be huge, something Trapattoni wouldn’t even know existed.
“It was good to see Kevin Doyle back in the last squad because I really felt he was treated unfairly by Trapattoni. Okay, he was having problems at club level for Wolves. But it wasn’t Kevin; it was the club on a downward spiral.”
Quinn longs to see a pyramid system in Ireland to dissuade teens from having to up sticks for England so early, preferring them to leave it until later in life, like Doyle did in his move to Reading.
“Going away at 16 is too young,” he asserts. “My mother is a teacher, I did decent enough at school but I still wish I had a university education behind me in many respects because I would have been better able to handle life in England.
“When I looked back at my career, I saw players whose marriages broke down, players with problems with addiction and depression and it makes me wish I had a longer education.”
* The Tiglin Rehab Centre located in Wicklow has 30 males and 12 females in the centre and there are still huge waiting lists. The centre provides general support to clients, not just addressing substance abuse. Yesterday, Wicklow gardaí took part in a friendly with a team from Tiglin.
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