Martin O’Neill – Republic of Ireland Manager
Following the departure of Italian, Giovanni Trapattoni, from his role as Republic of Ireland manager the FAI appointed Ulsterman Martin O’Neill as his full-time replacement in November 2013. To everyone’s surprise O’Neill demanded that former Manchester United and Irish captain, Roy Keane, would be his right-hand man.
O’Neill had an impressive CV including a European Cup winners medal as a player and the management of club teams at the top level in England and Scotland. Earlier in the year he had been sacked from his position as manager of (the almost unmanageable) Sunderland so the Irish manager vacancy was a good opportunity for the 61 year old.
Martin O’Neill – Football Background
Club Playing Career
Martin O’Neill began his football career in his native Ulster playing for Distillery but after just seven first team appearances he signed for English First Division team Nottingham Forest in 1971. He also quit his law degree at Queen’s University in Belfast to take up his professional football career.
O’Neill spent most of his playing career with Forest playing under manager Brian Clough. During his ten years with Forest he enjoyed a lot of success winning the League title, the League Cup, and the European Cup.
O’Neill left Nottingham Forest in 1981 and went on to play for Norwich City, Manchester City, and Notts County.
Martin O’Neill – Playing Career with Northern Ireland
O’Neill was captain of the Northern Ireland team that qualified for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain. Under his captaincy the Irish made it to the quarter finals beating Spain 1-0 in Valencia en route. This was a remarkable achievement for such a small footballing country. O’Neill was also part of the Northern Irish team that won the British Home Championship in 1980 and 1984.
Following a persistent knee injury O’Neill finally accepted the inevitable and retired from football in 1985 thus depriving him of the opportunity to play with Northern Ireland in successive World Cup finals, in Mexico in 1986.
Martin O’Neill – Managerial Career
Martin O’Neill began his managerial career with non-league Grantham Town. He established his management credentials by taking Wycombe Wanderers from the Football Conference to the Football League, and eventually into Division Two. Following this he went on to manage a number of other clubs in England and Scotland with varying degrees of success. The list of clubs included, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa, and Sunderland.
Martin O’Neill – Appointment as Republic of Ireland Manager
Following the controversial reign of Giovanni Trapattoni there was something of a clamour for his replacement to be Irish or British. In the past FAI CEO John Delaney had expressed his interest in Martin O’Neill for the position of Irish manager. The fact that O’Neill was available meant that he immediately became the favourite with the bookies. Despite a somewhat protracted ‘will he – won’t he’ period Delaney finally got his man. Unfortunately for Delaney he also got Roy Keane as part of the deal. Delaney and Keane had crossed swords publicly in the past, particularly over the Saipan Incident, however O’Neill insisted that the Corkman must be on the management ticket.
Many commentators and fans wondered how long a management team of two such volatile characters, as O’Neill and Keane, could last. Both men were very strong-willed and were natural leaders, and both had captained their clubs and national teams. The then manager of Celtic, Neil Lennon summed up the thoughts of many succinctly when he said “God help the players.”. A sentiment somewhat echoed by O’Neill during his first interview following the announcement of their appointment ” I think I’m the bad cop — and I think he’s (Keane) the bad, bad cop.”. Only time would tell if the two bad cops could work effectively together.
Martin O’Neill’s Record as Irish Manager
O’Neill’s first match as manager of the Republic of Ireland was a friendly against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium on 15th November 2013. A first-half goal from Irish record goal scorer, Robbie Keane, and one a-piece from Aidan McGeady and Shane Long in the second-half gave O’Neill a winning start.
O’Neill tasted defeat as Irish manager for the first time in a home friendly against Serbia in March 2014. The Serbs scored two second half goals to secure victory.
In his first competitive match O’Neill recorded an away victory against Georgia in the opening match of the Euro 2016 qualifiers. A last minute goal from Everton’s Aiden McGeady allowed O’Neill to emulate two of his predecessors (Brian Kerr & Giovanni Trapattoni) to record a winning start to their competitive matches against the former USSR republic.
Following a roller coaster campaign, including a hugely disappointing loss to Scotland and an amazing 1-0 win against World champions Germany, Ireland finished third in the qualifying group. This meant that Ireland faced Bosnia and Herzegovina in a two match play-off to determine which team would qualify for Euro 2016 in Paris. A 3-1 aggregate victory over the two legs meant that Martin O’Neill joined Jack Charlton, Mick McCarthy and Giovanni Trapattoni in managing Ireland to qualification for a major football championship finals.
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
John Aldridge – George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – Johnny Carey