Delaney denies O’Neill was an expensive mistake

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Republic of Ireland football chief John Delaney has launched a staunch defence of former national team manager Martin O’Neill.

O’Neill and his backroom staff, including assistant Roy Keane, all left their roles on Wednesday following the Republic’s relegation in the inaugural Nations League.

Mick McCarthy has been reappointed until the Euro 2020 finals when newly-appointed Under-21s boss Stephen Kenny will then take charge of the senior team.

FAI chief executive John Delaney, left, said Martin O'Neill had done
FAI chief executive John Delaney, left, said Martin O’Neill had done “a hell of a job” as Republic of Ireland boss (Niall Carson/PA)

“I’ve heard and read a lot of stuff that’s been written over the last period and it’s very unfair.

“He got us to the last 16 of the Euros and less than 12 months ago to a play-off against Denmark and he blooded 12 or 13 players in the last 12 months.

“So he was a very good appointment for the Football Association of Ireland and the blooding of those players over the last 12 months is good for the future.”

O’Neill agreed to end his five-year reign as manager after a dreadful run of form and results which had seen his team win just once in nine matches during 2018.

But he guided Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, a run which included a famous victory over world champions Germany, and they beat Italy to reach the last 16 at the tournament.

The Republic also came within 90 minutes of this summer’s World Cup finals, only to lose 5-1 in the second leg of their play-off against Denmark in November last year after a battling 0-0 draw in Copenhagen.

When it was suggested the O’Neill-Keane partnership had proved an expensive mistake, Delaney added: “I read things in the papers and you read them too, you can talk about expensive, whichever way you put it, he was a good manager.

“He got us to a major tournament, he got us to the play-offs against Denmark. We were 60 minutes away from getting to a World Cup.

“We were beaten by France down in Lille 2-1 (at Euro 2016) and France advanced to the final. He did a hell of a job for Irish football.”

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