‘I leave with a heavy heart’ – Martin O’Neill speaks out after Ireland exit

‘I leave with a heavy heart’ – Martin O’Neill speaks out after Ireland exit

MARTIN O'NEILL has said in a statement that it was with ‘a heavy heart’ that he left his role as manager of the Ireland national team.

O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane parted company with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) by mutual consent after failing to win a competitive game in 2018.

His departure followed the team’s relegation from League B in their inaugural Nations League campaign.

Transition period

However in a statement released by the League Managers Association, O’Neill insisted the side was in transition as he built for the future.

“Knowing that the past year would be a transitional phase for the squad, I have capped 12 new players in the last nine games, with the aim that they become significant international contributors in the coming campaign,” said O’Neill.

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

O’Neill and Keane, as well as coaches Steve Guppy and Seamus McDonagh, signed contract extensions in January to see them through until 2020.

The former Celtic and Aston Villa manager expressed his disappointment that he wouldn’t see out his contract.

'Lifetime ambition'

“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 said.

“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.”

However the 66-year-old, who led Ireland to the last-16 of the 2016 European Championships, said he had no plans to quit the game.

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