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Soccer-O'Neill named Ireland manager, Keane assistant

Reuters

* Former Northern Ireland player O'Neill takes Ireland job

* Chooses fiery former Ireland captain Keane as number two

* Pair aiming to secure qualification for Euro 2016 in France (Adds confirmation of appointments)

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Martin O'Neill was named Ireland manager on Tuesday, with Roy Keane as his assistant more than a decade after the former captain walked out on the team at the 2002 World Cup.

"Roy's coming with me," O'Neill told ITV television. "Personally speaking I think he will be great for me but more importantly it will be great for Ireland."

Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney announced that the appointment was imminent earlier on Tuesday before confirming, after O'Neill and Keane had appeared together as TV pundits, that the former Aston Villa and Celtic boss had taken over from Italian Giovanni Trapattoni.

"Today, the FAI Board is appointing two Irish legends as manager and assistant manager of our national team," Delaney said in a statement.

O'Neill, standing beside Keane, told ITV: "We are excited by it. I'm looking forward to it greatly. I think I'm the bad cop and I think he's the bad, bad cop."

Former Manchester United midfielder Keane added: "It's fantastic news, I'm delighted and honoured Martin has asked me to work with him. I'm looking forward to working with the players and trying to get to the Euros (in France in 2016)."

O'Neill, once touted in the media for a big club job in England after winning three Scottish league titles and reaching the UEFA Cup final at Celtic, was sacked as manager of struggling Premier Leaague side Sunderland this year.

He will be charged with picking up an Ireland team that finished fourth in their group during the last World Cup qualifying campaign and were outclassed at Euro 2012 when Trapattoni was widely criticised for his negative tactics.

VOCAL CRITIC

Former Northern Ireland international O'Neill was favourite to take over from Trapattoni after the Italian quit in September but Keane's return as his number two is an intriguing move by Delaney and his association.

Keane, regarded as one of the country's greatest players, had a major fallout with the FAI over what he saw as amateurish preparations for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and, despite returning to play for the country two years later, he has remained a vocal critic of the association.

Keane, who also had a stint in charge of Sunderland but whose coaching ambitions stalled during an unsuccessful period at English second-tier side Ipswich Town, criticised Delaney for being pictured drinking with fans at last year's Euros.

The seven-times Premier League winner's withering evaluation of then-manager Mick McCarthy and of the FAI in general on the eve of the 2002 World Cup means he remains one of the most divisive figures in Irish soccer.

The fiery midfielder threw the national team into chaos when he walked out and the incident dominated the front and back pages of newspapers, even being depicted in a musical that compared the dispute to a Shakespearean tragedy.

"Anything that would have been said by Roy or I to each other or about each other is now irrelevant," said Delaney, who added that the appointments would not have been possible without the continued financial support of media mogul Denis O'Brien and the assistance of Celtic director Dermot Desmond.

"He (Martin) asked what the association's view would be in terms of Roy being the assistant and I said absolutely no problem. I met him (Roy) last week and we've discussed the past. It was discussed for about 30 seconds.

"This is a roller coaster that me and most of the Irish people are looking forward to." (Additional reporting by Sam Cage and Phil O'Connor, Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)

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