MARTIN O’Neill and Roy Keane have become the Republic of Ireland’s managerial dream team.
The 61-year-old Ulsterman and the 42-year-old former Manchester United and Ireland skipper have signed initial two-year contracts after concluding talks with the Football Association of Ireland.
The FAI confirmed on their official Twitter feed on Tuesday evening that the duo would be in charge for next month’s friendly against Latvia
The tweet read: “O’Neill & Keane’s 1st game leading Ireland will be v Latvia in @AVIVAStadium Fri Nov 15.”
The pair, who were on duty as ITV pundits at Tuesday night’s Champions League clash between Real Sociedad and Manchester United, expressed their delight before the game.
Asked if it was a marriage made in heaven, O’Neill said with a smile: “Well, I think I’m the bad cop and he’s the bad, bad cop.
“We’re excited by it. It looks like we’ve something to go with. I’m looking forward to it greatly.”
Keane added: “It’s fantastic news. I’m honoured that Martin has asked me to come and help him with the team.
“I’m very excited - I might not look it, but I am. I look forward to working with the players and trying to get to the Euros.”
O’Neill is expected to be formally unveiled at a press conference on Saturday after opting to resume his career on the international stage a little more than seven months after parting company with last club Sunderland.
He sprang something of a surprise when it emerged that he had sounded out former Black Cats and Ipswich boss Keane about playing a part, but a partnership which will certainly capture the imagination of the Republic’s fans has now become a reality.
Asked why he had chosen Keane, he joked: “I’ve asked myself that many a time over the last 48 hours.
“He’s coming with me. Personally speaking, I think he’ll be great for me, but more importantly, he’ll be great for the Republic of Ireland.”
O’Neill was swiftly identified as the man the FAI wanted to succeed Giovanni Trapattoni following the 74-year-old Italian’s exit after five and a half years at the helm in September, and he mulled over his decision at length with a series of Barclays Premier League clubs having courted him in the meantime.
Keane was initially considered a potential rival for the vacancy along with former boss Mick McCarthy, despite the bust-up between the two in Saipan before the 2002 World Cup finals.
However, when O’Neill enquired about the possibility of bringing the former Manchester United skipper back into the fold, he found there was a willingness to embrace the proposal from both he and the association.
Speaking earlier in the day, Delaney, who met Keane last week, told Sky Sports News: “I was very taken by him. He wants to come. He’s been a great footballer.
“Martin wants him to be his assistant. He was Martin’s choice. I come from a school where the manager chooses his backroom team.
“People need to draw a line in the sand. It’s gone. Now is the time to stop talking about it.”
With the financial package, which is once again being part-funded by businessman Denis O’Brien, already agreed, the only remaining discussions were over the respective roles the two men would have, and those talks have now drawn to a close to the satisfaction of all parties.
The new management team will be in place by the time their squad meets up in Dublin after this weekend’s club fixtures ahead of the friendlies against Latvia and Poland.
Ireland face the Poles in Poznan four days after taking on Latvia, and O’Neill and Keane are due to begin work at their Malahide training base on Monday.
But their task in the long-term is to lead the nation to the finals of Euro 2016, the qualifying tournament for which gets under way in September next year.