By Alan Condon
The overall mood of Martin O'Neill's unveiling as Republic of Ireland manager at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin on Saturday afternoon was calm and optimistic. The new manager spoke strongly and confidently about his objectives for the Irish team.
“My plan is to win games, and to win games with a little bit of style and panache," he said.
After a brief hiatus from the game following his disappointing spell as Sunderland boss, O’Neill expressed his excitement at the beginning of a new chapter in his career. “I never lost my energy or enthusiasm. I’ve never lost the energy. It’s what keeps me going,” he said.
Asked about the approach or style of play he will look to instil in the Irish squad, he stressed the importance of winning back some of the supporters: “Essentially what I’d like to try and do is develop a style of play that people will be able to identify with, but not to lose the inherent passion that I believe exists within the squad.”
Ireland do not play a competitive match until next autumn so O'Neill intends to use this month's friendlies against Latvia and Poland as a means to work out his preferred system.
“These two games will give me the opportunity to [work on tactics]," he said. "There’s not a system that I’m not aware of. During different spells at different clubs we’ve had different systems that adapted and adjusted to the type of team that we were playing. It depends on what’s available,” said O’Neill.
There has been much interest in the new manager’s decision to name Roy Keane as his number two and the appointment begged the question as to whether two such vocal and animated characters could co-exist in such a hectic, high profile position.
The former Celtic boss shed light on how the partnership would work during the week, joking that “I’m the bad cop, and Roy is the bad, bad cop.”
With regard to Keane, O’Neill said: “It’s caused me a few headaches. I’m absolutely delighted he’s on board. He’s an iconic figure and one of the best players in the Premier League era.”
It is evident that a drastic change was needed after some morale-draining recent performances during the Trapattoni era, and, although the partnership of O’Neill and Keane has been touted as a potentially volatile one, there is an optimistic air around the future of the national team and a genuine hope that the FAI's most recent risk pays off.