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Kerr launching the Brendan McKenna Memorial Award this week.
Kerr launching the Brendan McKenna Memorial Award this week.

What does Martin O'Neill have to do next as Ireland manager?

Brian Kerr gives his thoughts on how the new boss will spend the coming months in the job.
Nov 30th 2013, 8:00 AM 8,890 21

HAVING HAD LITTLE time to prepare before taking on Latvia and Poland in his new job as Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill now has three months before he selects a squad for the first time for the friendly against Serbia in March.

He will have evaluated the group of players who trained in Dublin this month and must consider whether there are others available to him who would strengthen the current crop. Either way, there is likely to be plenty of scouting by O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane.

Brian Kerr was in a similar position when he was appointed international boss in 2003 and this week spoke to about how O’Neill will be using the time.

So, what does Martin O’Neill do between now and March? Is it all about scouting his players?

He may want to rearrange some of the backroom staff after having a look at how things worked in the last two games. Saying that, he may look at them and see they’re fine so think ‘we’ll work away as it is’.

Usually when managers come in they want to tweak things. In general, they will demand some improvements and want to extract more investment from the association in the early stages. That’s usually how it works.

He may want to bring in another staff member or two. I’m not quite sure why they would need more staff around the team as there are two people there who are quite capable of doing a bit of coaching. The idea of having a set-piece specialist would rather surprise me.

Every manager has his own ideas about it but to bring someone in just specifically for that role seems a rather strange one. But we’ll see what happens.

Scouting will be very much a part of it as there are loads of players to evaluate. He said he didn’t know much about Paul Green until he got in to working close to the team for instance so he will want to get around and see all the players.

What else does he need to look at?

The other one is the question are there other players out there who are eligible who he would want to assess, evaluate and compare to what he has before he picks his next squad in March next year.

That’s the sort of work he will be doing. Whether they’re are others that are eligible, you would hope that whoever they are, they have got to be better than what we have already. Otherwise what’s the point in going to the bother of getting them.

He’s an experienced manager and will know what he has to do with regard to that. He will be familiar with the rules and how to exploit them as many countries are using them to the maximum to improve the options they have.

You can’t blame any manager, or an Irish one in particular as we’re working off such a low population base where you’re less likely to produce geniuses.

What are your thoughts on current rules which allow players to switch allegiance having played a senior friendly for one country like in Diego Costa’s case?

FIFA really need to tighten up the rules. It has become too loose and almost farcical where fellas are playing for different countries. Whatever about playing up until U19, by the time you’re that age you know what country you’re from.

Playing at senior international level and changing and the situation where players can get passports after living there five years which makes them eligible is far too loose.

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But that’s how it is and if you’re competing with everyone else I think we’re entitled to exploit our diaspora whatever the best way possible.

We’ve got a history of emigration and also have a low playing base as well as the unique situation of having so many ball games in this country.

imageExpect to see O’Neill at plenty of Premier League grounds. Credit: INPHO/Billy Stickland

When you’re looking into possible ‘granny rule’ players, should they feel Irish already or are you happy to try convince them to declare for the country?

As a manager approaching that sort of stuff, my first attitude would be that they need to be better than what we have available if they need convincing to play for us. For many player who are the children of Irish people in England, there isn’t persuasion involved in it as they want to play for Ireland.

Unfortunately they can be in an environment at a club where there would be people who would be persuading them to hang on and play for England, which was the case when I was manager.

That is a problem they have to deal with. It’s not always easy for young players to understand how it’s going to be if they haven’t been regular visitors to Ireland. Will they be accepted into the group if they have English accents and don’t know Amhran na bhFiann? How will it be for them?

You would understand that there might be a reluctance until they meet some of the people or get to know some of the players. I think we were always very careful going back with Noel O’Reilly and all my other staff.

How did you man-manage bringing new players into the squad?

We had to make sure that players coming in like Aiden McGeady for instance, who was under pressure to play for Scotland, felt very comfortable in the group.

It was a delicate one right up until 18 or 19 when I selected him for the senior team. I remember calling his father about it and I explained to him that I was going to play him for a few minutes during a match in London.

I told him he wasn’t going to get a lot of time on the pitch as he was still quite physically lightweight but that eventually it would happen for him.

I thought it was important for him to get some of the pressure that was there off him because Scotland were trying to persuade him. He was invited to meet Berti Vogts and to see the stadium.

I’d say he’s very happy with that decision (looking back). When he came to Ireland he was always comfortable and he used to ask me if he could go see his aunt in Meath. So in the end it worked out.

Former Republic of Ireland manager Brian Kerr yesterday helped to launch the Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland’s (SWAI) Brendan McKenna Memorial Award for 2013. For more information, visit

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