New Era

Keane’s Ireland future looks bleak as FAI hold talks with Celtic over Duff

Stephen Kenny’s backroom team will not be announced until a sign-off is secured from Celtic while Keith Andrews prepares for life as Ireland assistant manager.

THE FAI HOPE to secure an agreement with Celtic inside the next 24 hours to get Damien Duff on board Stephen Kenny’s coaching ticket. The association’s chief executive, Gary Owens, has already been in talks with the Scottish club to finalise an arrangement, which would likely see Duff continue his role as first-team coach at Celtic while operating as Kenny’s No3.

Keith Andrews, the former Ireland international, will be Kenny’s assistant manager, Duff the senior team coach. Under this set-up, it is impossible to see how there will be a role for Robbie Keane, who still has two years left on his coaching contract with the FAI, another legacy the new administration have inherited from John Delaney’s tenure. It is looking increasingly likely the FAI will have to reach a settlement with Keane.  

Kenny was formally announced as the new Ireland manager yesterday but the make-up of his backroom staff will be delayed until an agreement is reached with Celtic. By then, the future of Ireland’s record goalscorer and caps holder will become clearer. Three separate well-placed sources said they do not expect Keane to be involved under Kenny.

The decision to bring forward Kenny’s start-date was taken on Thursday evening and communicated to Mick McCarthy the following morning. The former Ireland captain, whose second stint in charge lasted just 10 games, was dignified and pragmatic in his response, having already agreed to a pay deferral earlier this week.

McCarthy’s contract, which expires on 31 July this year, will be honoured in full. This deal, worth €1.2 million per-year also includes an additional €1 million bonus. As well as this, should Kenny steer Ireland through the play-offs to reach next year’s Euros, McCarthy is contracted to receive yet another bonus, this time for helping Ireland reach the finals. However, this second bonus will be divided with Kenny on a pro-rata basis.

While the suddenness of this decision to bring Kenny in and wave farewell to McCarthy appears dramatic, sources have indicated that there was no tension behind the scenes.

Uefa wrote to the FAI on Thursday, following their meeting with all their member associations 24 hours earlier, to indicate that their priority was to finish off this season’s domestic league and Champions League fixtures. As a result, the Ireland/Slovakia play-off has been delayed yet again, having originally been scheduled for March.

It remains a mystery when this game will be played, and it’s possible it may be as late as next March. In the meantime, the FAI had a legal agreement in place – again thanks to the Delaney regime – to bring about their managerial change on 1 August. It’s worth noting that McCarthy has consistently stated, throughout his second term, that he was sticking by this agreement.

The FAI, meanwhile, simply couldn’t afford to ignore the contracts that Delaney had signed off on. Strapped for cash, the idea of extending McCarthy’s tenure until the end of Ireland’s Euro campaign was a financial no-go, given that this would have entailed finding another €1.2m for McCarthy. Plus, from a sporting perspective, the ramifications would have been massive. Deferring Kenny’s start-date would have undermined him massively. And so an agreement was swiftly reached between Owens, the chief executive officer, Roy Barrett, the independent chairperson of the board, and Gerry McAnaney, the FAI’s president. And any concerns they had about the messy situation they had inherited becoming awkward were removed by McCarthy who accepted it was the only call that could have been made.

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