FAI CEO John Delaney has confirmed that Martin O'Neill will sign his new contract to remain as Irish manager before the UEFA Nations League draw next Wednesday. It was announced on October 5th last year, ahead of Ireland's final World Cup qualifiers that O'Neill had reached a verbal agreement with the FAI to stay on as manager for the Euro 2020 qualification campaign.
On the day of another contract renewal - Aviva will retain the naming rights on Lansdowne Road until 2025 - Delaney told the media that O'Neill met with the FAI last night to agree terms, and will put pen to paper before the UEFA Nations League draw next Wednesday.
The main delay, according to Delaney, was Denmark's 5-1 brutalising of Ireland in the World Cup playoff in Dublin. In spite of the verbal agreement with the FAI, O'Neill took time after the defeat to consider his position. When asked what lessons could be learned by the FAI over the delay, Delaney quipped that "maybe the lesson to be learned is please don’t get beaten by Denmark 5-1 again!", a point on which he had elaborated earlier:
It’s the way it happened last time around. We had a verbal agreement and it took a number of weeks to get it physically signed.
We agreed in October to offer Martin a new contract and he accepted. I’ve said it many times today but obviously the game in November was a blow. It was a blow.
And Martin took some time to consider he would…reflect on whether he was going to renew his contract for another two years.
He came in last night and met Michael Cody and I, we agreed terms, and the contract will be signed prior to the Nations League draw....
...I’ll keep saying: November was a blow. It was a difficult night, and I don’t think anyone would criticise anyone for taking some time after that to think if they wanted to stay on for another couple of years.
O'Neill phoned Delaney on Saturday to inform him that he was to hold talks with Stoke City, and phoned the following afternoon to communicate his desire to stay with Ireland having turned down the offer from Stoke.
"There is a lot of trust, and I’ve said this many times, between the manager and the association. I always felt he would stay", Delaney said. The CEO also pointed out that O'Neill has received a number of offers during his time with Ireland - the Everton job is thought to be among them - and that he has always informed the FAI of these offers.
It had been claimed that O'Neill's previous deal contained a clause which allowed him to break contract were he courted by a Premier League club. When asked by Balls if this clause existed in the deal he will sign next week, Delaney clarified that it was less a clause than it was an "understanding".
It’s not so much a clause as an understanding. There have been many approaches to Martin in his time since he has joined us as manager. We’ve always had a very honest and open relationship and he’ll inform us.
Would the FAI stand in his way?
If an employee wants to leave an employer, you can’t stop them. It’s like a footballer wanting to leave Liverpool for Barcelona, or whatever. Martin O’Neill, if he wanted to manage Stoke City or anyone else, could have done so by now.
But he doesn’t, he wants to be the manager of the Republic of Ireland.
Delaney also confirmed that the FAI would have due compensation had O'Neill taken the Stoke City job over the weekend, in spite of the contract situation.