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Martin O'Neill is planning a trip to Dundalk and Cork's big European nights

The senior international boss has been impressed by the ‘fantastic’ performances of Ireland’s top two clubs in the Champions League and the Europa League.

O'Neill gave a press conference at the Clonmel Park Hotel today.
O'Neill gave a press conference at the Clonmel Park Hotel today.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill spoke glowingly today about the recent efforts of Dundalk and Cork City in European competitions.

The SSE Airtricity League’s top two clubs both put in admirable performances in tough away legs this week — going down 1-0 to BATE Borisov and Genk respectively.

There is still all to play for when the Lilywhites host their Belarusian opponents at Tallaght Stadium in the Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday, and the same can be said of Thursday’s Europa League tie at Turner’s Cross.

O’Neill, who was in Clonmel today for the FAI Senior Cup third round draw, will be back in Ireland next week and says he wants to take in both matches.

“I’d like to hopefully see some of the European matches next week if I can,” said O’Neill.

“The performances have been absolutely fantastic. I’ve been really impressed. These games are exceptionally difficult and Dundalk’s result in BATE was fantastic.

“They deserve great credit — the team, the manager and the players. The same with Cork’s efforts, they have been really great.

It can’t be underestimated, it’s been a fantastic effort and both sides are still in it.

“These are big teams they playing. BATE’s record is great in the Champions League, and Genk have produced some incredible players in the last 10-14 years.”

O’Neill, whose contract with the FAI expired after Euro 2016, has yet to put pen to paper on a new deal despite making reassurances on several occasions that he and chief executive John Delaney have a gentleman’s agreement.

Ireland’s next game, a friendly with Oman in Dublin on 31 August, is a little over a month away. From there, it is straight into World Cup qualifiers with an away trip to Belgrade to face Serbia on 5 September.

It appears to be a formality that the extension will be signed, and O’Neill says confirmation is imminent.

“It’s ready for signature so we’re ready to go,” he stated. “It’s not a problem. I’ve never known what the fuss is about. I think we agreed it sometime ago.

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“I haven’t had the chance to get over (to Ireland). I had some time just after the Euros, although I haven’t been away anywhere.

“This is my first opportunity today so everything is fine. I’m away tomorrow but then I’m back in next week.”

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Ben Blake

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