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Comment & Opinion | Sport

Comment: Has Martin O’Neill’s FAI contract issue become a saga?

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill [Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan]
LAST FRIDAY, at the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland’s annual awards dinner, Martin O’Neill paused to chew the fat just moments before he sat down for his five-course meal.

Needless to say, his contract came up for discussion. And needless to say, the issue was again brushed aside.

“I actually saw John (Delaney) today and I think he wants to get things moving in the next few weeks,” said O’Neill.

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“There’ll probably be some sort of chat about it. Nothing has been talked about yet but John mentioned it today – he was in a rush to get out – and he just said that we would sit down over the next couple of weeks which we intend to do.”

You would certainly hope so. O’Neill’s deal is up in June – yet as far back as September, Delaney was making it clear he wanted to add another two years to his contract. “He’s done a really fine job,” the FAI Chief Executive said. “We’ll talk.”

The question is when? This is January. Ireland qualified for the European finals in November. No matches have taken place since. It isn’t as if O’Neill’s schedule is overly packed. Nor is Delaney’s with more pressing needs than this.

So when O’Neill said in December than they’d wait until they ‘got Christmas out of the way’, no one batted an eyelid. Why would we? Both he – and Delaney – had indicated they want to stay for the World Cup qualifiers. So deal done?

It should have been. But the weeks are passing. Ink hasn’t visited any paper yet and the longer it does, the more inclined we are to wonder if there is an issue. First, there was the delay to get the play-offs against Bosnia out of the way. Then they waited for the European finals draw, then for Christmas. What’s next? St Valentine’s Day?

What does it take for an issue to become a saga? A delay like this. The longer we wait for a contract to be agreed, the more suspicious we become that it may not be. So while Ireland do not have another match for two months, this is one result they are holding out for.

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