Martin O’Neill expects to be in charge of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign despite having not formally signed a new deal.
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.
Asked about his unsigned contract in Versailles on Monday morning, manager 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 we 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.”
While O’Neill experienced tournament football himself as a player with Northern Ireland – he was part of the team which reached the World Cup finals in 1982 – France was his first taste of it as a manager, and it is one he clearly revelled in.
He said: “I’ve enjoyed it immensely. It was seriously brilliant to be involved in it. What have I learned? I’ll let you know in the next couple of weeks. But to be a part of it was extremely brilliant.”
The tournament represented something of a watershed for O’Neill’s squad with the likes of Brady, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Duffy announcing their arrival on the international scene at the same time as veterans Shay Given, John O’Shea and Robbie Keane took a step back.
Those elder statesmen are yet to make decisions over their respective futures, but whatever they decide, O’Neill is grateful for the service they have given in recent weeks.
He said: “That decision will be up to the players, but I would like to say the players you’ve mentioned – and I include Glenn Whelan – have been really terrific around the team. I wouldn’t have been without them in that sense.”