Martin O’Neill confident of his future with Republic of Ireland

Republic of Ireland 
Manager Martin O'Neill
Republic of Ireland Manager Martin O'Neill

Martin O’Neill is confident he will lead the Republic of Ireland into their World Cup qualifying campaign despite not formally signing his new contract.

O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane, as well as the rest of the management staff, agreed new deals with the Football Association of Ireland as they prepared to fly out to the Euro 2016 finals in France, although it later emerged that they were yet to put pen to paper.

However, having seen Ireland’s adventure come to an end following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by the hosts in Lyon, the 64-year-old is already planning for the future.

O’Neill said: “My contract officially ended about a minute and a half after the result. I don’t see that being an issue now.

“I’ve agreed with [FAI chief executive] John [Delaney] and would be happy to continue on if he’s still feeling that way. I’d like Roy to stay, I will sit down with him.

“To a certain extent, I’m misleading you - those conversations have mostly taken place. I think he would like to do it and I think we’re pretty well all in place if the FAI board want to continue on.”

He added with a smile: “I didn’t want to see the board last night.”

The Republic headed home with their heads held high after improving significantly on their showing at Euro 2012.

Four years ago, they returned from Poland having lost each of their three group games, against Croatia, Spain and Italy. This time around, they drew 1-1 with Sweden on a night when they might have won and despite a disappointing defeat by Belgium, secured their passage to the last 16 with a famous 1-0 victory over Italy.

Even as they bowed out, they did so while giving tournament favourites France a major scare when Robbie Brady fired them into a second-minute lead from the penalty spot, although Didier Deschamps’ men eventually squeezed through 2-1.

O’Neill said: “Sweden got us off to a fantastic start, even though it was only one point. There was pride and disappointment in equal measure that didn’t get all three points when we should have done.

“Then not so good against Belgium - we didn’t play with the same intensity and kept giving ball away cheaply, and that was a surprise given how well we’d done against Sweden.“But we roared back against Italy and people in Ireland can be very proud of the team.”