Martin O’Neill has broken his silence in the aftermath of his departure from the Republic of Ireland set-up.
The Derry man finally left the managerial post this morning after five years at the helm, along with assistant boss Roy Keane.
His much-criticised tenure did have a number of highlights, with a home win over World Cup champions Germany and a successful Euro 2016 campaign in which Ireland reached the knockout stages being chief among them.
But the retirements of legends such as Robbie Keane and John O’Shea began to herald a turbulent time.
Since the thrashing from Denmark in the 2018 World Cup playoffs, Ireland have won just a single game this year, and have struggled badly for goals – even by their goal-shy standards.
Attention has already turned to the eventual replacement, but O’Neill’s thoughts on his spell as Ireland boss are certainly worth taking on board, with the former Celtic boss releasing a statement today that can be seen in full below.
“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,” he stated.
“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.
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 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 the same spirit, imbued by the fans, onto the field.
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.
A return to club football is likely for O’Neill down the line, with previous spells at Leicester, Sunderland and Aston Villa standing to him.