Tony O’Donoghue V Martin O’Neill: The sequel is tetchy as ever

Yesterday’s sense of déjà vu arising out of Ireland’s Nations League draw wasn’t just confined to a renewal of hostilities with Wales and Denmark.

The event in Switzerland also marked a return to the ring of those old adversaries Tony O’Donoghue and Martin O’Neill. 

The manager’s response to the RTÉ man’s questions once again ensured there would be another run on stocks of that well-used descriptive term ‘tetchy’.

After initial pleasantries were exchanged about the familiar nature of the draw, the RTÉ man took the conversation back to last November only to have O’Neill seek to turn the tables on the interviewer.

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TOD: Regarding the Denmark match, it was said that you were quite stung by the criticism after that game. Is that correct?

MON: Mmm…I think that…you, just before we did our interview, you actually said to me ‘hard luck’.

You know, just before we went on air. What did you mean by that, you know?

TOD: Well it’s very disappointing to go out in a play-off, isn’t it?

MON: Yeah, you did say ‘hard luck’. You weren’t being disingenuous about it, were you?

TOD: No

MON: No. OK. Just it was interesting you should say ‘hard luck’ to me beforehand. I assume ‘hard luck’ actually means ‘tough luck on the whole group’ you know.

So…anyway…Obviously disappointed that we lost the game, disappointed that we didn’t qualify for the World Cup but, overall, delighted with the effort of the team.

TOD: Did that lead to a period of reflection for you regarding whether you were going to stay in the job or not? Because at that stage you had committed verbally to staying in the job.

MON: I think you need a bit of reflection, don’t you, y’know? A wee bit of reflection. John and I, we took a little bit of time. The FAI wanted me to stay on and I was delighted to do so. Delighted to do so.

TOD: Were you surprised at the overall reaction to the defeat?

MON: I thought you just asked me that question before. I thought I’d answered it.

TOD: I meant in general. You were reflecting…

MON: No. Everyone to their own.

O’Donoghue then moved the interview on to the subject of interest in O’Neill from Premier League clubs, to which the manager responded by suggesting that the perception elsewhere of the job he has done with the Republic “is actually very, very positive – unlike yourself.”

And once again he mentioned the previous ‘hard luck’ reference after the Denmark game but this time added the charge that the RTÉ man had followed it (in his on-air post-match interview) with “just a real verbal attack, wasn’t it?”

And he went on: “So it’s funny: your reaction is totally different…hence people asking me about jobs.”

After a little bit more talk about his record of loyalty in football, O’Neill brought proceedings to a close.

“I thank you for your time,” he concluded.


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