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'It is with a heavy heart that I leave': O'Neill bids farewell to Ireland job recalling happy nights

The 66-year-old left by mutual consent on Wednesday alongside assistant Roy Keane.

O'Neill was in charge for five years.
O'Neill was in charge for five years.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL has thanked supporters and the FAI for giving him the chance to fulfil a life’s ambition by taking charge of the Irish national side, issuing a statement on Wednesday following his departure alongside Roy Keane.

The 66-year-old’s five-year tenure came to an end this morning, with his side enduring a difficult 2018 which saw Ireland secure just one win from nine games and suffer relegation in the Uefa Nations League.

Reflecting on his time in charge since 2013, O’Neill said that he would never forget the countless memories forged at the European Championships in France and other memorable qualifying wins along the way.

He said: 

“I have had the great honour of managing the Republic of Ireland National football team for the past five years and it is with a heavy heart that I leave this role.

“It was one of my lifetime ambitions to take charge of the Irish Senior squad and I would like to thank the FAI Board for giving me that opportunity.

Martin O'Neill celebrates at the final whistle O'Neill celebrates Ireland's win against Italy at Euro 2016. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I will not forget the night in Lille when we beat Italy to secure the nation’s best ever achievement in the Euros competition, the terrific night we beat the World Champions Germany at home in Dublin, or James McClean’s goal in that euphoric win against Wales in Cardiff that put us through to the play-offs for this year’s World Cup.

“The Irish fans have been a source of motivation to myself, the team and the whole backroom staff, embodying the passionate Irish spirit, and I thank them for their fervent support of the team.

“I am also very proud of the relationships I have built with the players, who have carried that very same spirit, imbued by the fans, onto the field of play.

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“A special thanks to Roy Keane my assistant, an inspirational figure in the world of football, Seamus McDonagh, Steve Guppy and Steve Walford for their brilliant contributions and to those backroom staff at the FAI that were of enormous help to me.

“Knowing that the past year would be a transitional phase for the squad, I have capped twelve new players in the last nine games, with the aim that they become significant international contributors in the coming campaign.

“To the players, I reserve great praise and admiration for the phenomenal commitment they have shown whilst wearing the Irish shirt.

“Having had these great experiences in my spell as the Irish international manager, I am looking forward to my next adventure in football.” 

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