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Could we not do an O’Neill swap?

Opinion piece: Brian Quigley

If only Michael and Martin O’Neill could just swap jobs. The football community down here would get an Irish man in charge who has managed successfully in the League of Ireland [with Shamrock Rovers], has a proven track record of getting the most out of limited resources and is young enough to be able to aim for longer-term targets rather than short-term goals. The FAI wouldn’t even need to order new gear for the new manager – anything with ‘’MON’’ on it will be still valid.

If I was Martin O’Neill and had the chance to swap into the Northern Ireland job, I’d take it. He’s from Kilrea and played with distinction for his national side during his own playing career. He’s 65, so what better way to finish his career than by getting the home-town gig. Expectations wouldn’t be anything like they have been down here. The salary mightn’t be as good but I don’t imagine he’s stuck for a bob or two.

But it’s unlikely any of this will happen. O’Neill [Martin] is in the frame for the Stoke City job. The bright lights of the Premiership have turned his head. At the time of writing it just seems like the length of the contract is the sticking point. Roy can even come too as the number two. Talking of numbers, if you’re into symbolism then how about this: Stoke’s ground is called the ‘bet365 Stadium’; Martin O’Neill’s current employers have ‘’3’’ as sponsor on their jersey, and the man is 65 years old. It’s enough for me.

I don’t know if anyone in the FAI has been in touch with Michael O’Neill’s representatives, but if they haven’t then it is probably too late. At the time of writing it looks like he’s about to take the Scotland job. Fair play to the Scottish FA if they get their man – they haven’t been waiting idly like the FAI for the problem to solve itself. Procrastination is the thief of time, as the saying goes. Maybe Delaney never heard that one, relying as he has been on a verbal agreement that Martin and Roy would eventually ink their contracts.

There sure is a bit of a national manager merry-go-round in these parts at the moment. Fall out from nobody – except England – qualifying for Russia. Coleman has ditched Wales for the bright lights of Sunderland in the Championship. Either Giggs or Bellamy looks to be the likely successor. Strachan is gone from the Scotland job and the SFA have their sights on Michael O’Neill. If he takes it that would leave the Northern Ireland job free. If Martin O’Neill leaves [it’s hard to see how he can stay, one way or another, at this stage] then the job down here is up for grabs too. Like I said, a merry-go-round.

I’ve heard Mick McCarthy’s name mentioned as a possible contender if the Republic job comes up. I wouldn’t be in favour of that. I’ve nothing against McCarthy – I liked him as a player as well as liking him as a manager and person. It would be more for his sake. They say you should never go back. I think he should stay and try to get Ipswich up, then keep them up. That should be his target, and I’d love to see him do it.

I’m sure we will see how it all pans out in the coming days.

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