|Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane at the Aviva Satadium in Dublin on Monday.|
Some of this is almost too good to be true – if it is indeed true as we approach the end of week one in the life of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane and the latest circus to attach itself to the Irish football team.
On Monday afternoon, Messrs Keane and O’Neill attached themselves to John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, for a photocall at the Aviva Stadium.
The photo was issued to the media on the basis that the two boys were getting down to business by inspecting Ireland’s home ground.
They were there purely to raise awareness for Friday night’s game against Latvia and sell some tickets for an association that still owes a big fortune of debt on the same stadium and will struggle to pay it off.
That Keane and Delaney were pictured together –with O’Neill in between them just in case – shows just how far the FAI is prepared to go to try and raise profile and cash. These two hate each other and their history is checkered, as I am sure Keane’s press conference on Wednesday, alas after our deadline, will verify.
That photo was almost too good to be true but it was true. The first reports from the initial training session with O’Neill, Keane and the Irish players now under their charge, were definitely too good to be true.
My man in Malahide – Owen Cowzer of the Irish Sun as it happens – was happy to confirm that players and management were in place on the training ground well ahead of schedule.
He was also happy to report, admitting it was unconfirmed and mere rumor at that stage, that Keane had put down the cones for the coaching session to follow.
I almost choked on my porridge when I read that text, the mere notion of a footballing God like Roy Keane laying out cones for Robbie Keane, etc. adding mirth to my breakfast.
We still haven’t confirmed whether or not Roy did put down the cones, the sort of thing people slagged Steve Staunton off for when he got the Ireland job. But the fact that he was even rumored to have done so shows you just how bizarre this new life with the Irish team is.
It also adds to the notion suggested on Twitter a few weeks ago that Roy Keane has now become the very man he spent years slagging off in the Jack Charlton set-up – Maurice Setters.
Setters was Jack’s number two but regarded with little more than disdain by Keane, so much so that the pair squared up to each other on the training ground in Orlando when Jack went off to look at Mexico play before the 1994 World Cup.
How ironic then that Keane is now the Maurice Setters of the new regime – though I doubt any of his players will make that suggestion to his face.
All of this nonsense of course is a mere sideshow to the real job ahead of Keane and his new mentor, O’Neill. They play Latvia on Friday and Poland on Tuesday and both games will give them – and us – an idea about the players at their disposal and the tactics they will employ in the future.
And another sideshow on Saturday, a throwaway remark by the match commentator on BBC’s Match of the Day show, shows just how difficult the job in hand is going to be for our new dream team.
Keane was caught on camera at Villa Park as Aston Villa defeated Cardiff in the Premier League, his first scouting mission to look at Irish players in his role as O’Neill’s assistant.
“He must be the most talked about assistant manager in football history,” said the commentator, and he made a good point considering all the column inches devoted to O’Neill’s choice in recent days.
The slight problem for Keane at Villa Park was the fact that only one Irish player played in the game. And Ciaran Clark picked up an injury in the match that immediately ruled him out of the friendlies against Latvia and Poland.
Maybe Keane was there to talk to Shay Given, Villa’s unwanted ‘keeper, about his offer to return to the international fold.