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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

Is Ireland boss Martin O'Neill out of the running for the Stoke job?

It has been confirmed that the manager will attend the annual Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland banquet tonight.

Martin O'Neill now looks unlikely to become the new Stoke boss.
Martin O'Neill now looks unlikely to become the new Stoke boss.
Image: Tim Goode

Updated at 12.24

MARTIN O’NEILL HAS prompted speculation that he is out of the running for the Stoke City job and will remain as Ireland boss for now by confirming his attendance at the annual Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland banquet in Dublin this evening.

O’Neill was widely reported to have met with the Premier League outfit earlier this week to discuss the possibility of taking over from Mark Hughes as the club’s manager.

However, reports emerging over the past 24 hours indicate that Espanyol coach Quique Sánchez Flores is the preferred man to take over at the Potters, with O’Neill believed to be the club’s second choice.

Contrary to previous reports that he would not be present, there has been confirmation today that O’Neill and his backroom staff will attend the annual SWAI banquet this evening, as has traditionally been the case during his time as manager.

While the Derry native has yet to comment publicly on the Stoke speculation, his decision to attend tonight’s banquet is a strong indication that it is business as usual as far as O’Neill is concerned and that the manager has no intention of ending his association with the Irish team imminently.

Whether Sánchez Flores ultimately agrees to take over at Stoke remains to be seen, though reports from Spain indicate he is set to accept the offer of a five-year deal from Stoke, while it seems O’Neill is not content to wait around as the club’s apparent fallback option.

Nevertheless, despite verbally agreeing a new contract, there has still been no official confirmation that O’Neill has extended his stay with the Boys in Green for the forthcoming Euro 2020 campaign, so the Football Association of Ireland may now be keen to quicken the negotiation process to avoid similar uncertainty surrounding the 65-year-old coach’s status in the near future.

Some critics have suggested that O’Neill might find it difficult to explain his motivations for ostensibly wanting to leave the Ireland job in the aftermath of this saga.

Speaking to RTÉ on Thursday, former Ireland international Richie Sadlier said: “I don’t know how workable a scenario it is for Martin O’Neill to simply return to Abbotstown and carry on in the job without some kind of thorough explanation on what went on this week.”

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Paul Fennessy

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