By Fiona O’Brien
Martin O’Neill may use the UK for his side’s Euro 2016 pre-tournament training camp in a total reversal of the team’s preparations for the ill-fated Euro 2012 campaign under Giovanni Trapattoni.
Being close to home, and with many UK-born players on the side, it would allow his squad to spend time with their families in the run-up to the finals, and concentrate on more serious matters come the tournament itself.
The FAI have already confirmed that Versailles will be the team’s base for the duration of the tournament, which sees Ireland kick off their Group E battle against Sweden on June 13, before taking on Belgium and Italy.
Prior to the games they have pencilled in three friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia at the end of March and the Netherlands at the Aviva Stadium on May 27. Speaking after the SSE Airtricity SWAI awards O’Neill said that rather than travel further into Europe before the tournament, they may stay slightly nearer to home instead.
“Nothing has been set in stone yet, but what we’re looking at is actually staying relatively local,” he said.
“Knowing that the weather is going to be really brilliant here in Dublin we thought that we might stay relatively local, local meaning within the UK.
“If the players are not a million miles from home, then their families are not far away. “There will be a day or two that I will allow them to go see their families.
“For instance, when we come here to the Castleknock Hotel and when we were at Portmarnock, I didn’t mind the players’ wives and families coming.
“Robbie Brady’s family would come in and have a cup of tea, it was never really a problem.
“I think if they were seeing their family relatively close to when we’re going away, there would be less pining once we got out into the main business.
“If you’re away for 16 or 18 days without seeing family, some things might be said.”
It would be the opposite approach to Ireland’s preparations for Euro 2012 when then-boss Giovanni Trapattoni took his side to Montecatini and Budapest before the disappointing tournament where Ireland lost all three group games.
“It’s not to criticise anything in the past. If Mr Trapattoni had a group of Italian players, that’s the sort of thing they’d get used to.
“I remember speaking to Graeme Souness and Trevor Francis when they were at Sampdoria.
“They thought they might be packing an overnight bag for preseason but were away for eight to 10 days for training camp. “The Italians thought, ‘This is normal’. But who knows?
“You want preparations to run as well as you can but the main thing is the games.”
He also confirmed that there would soon be talks about a new contract to extend his time with Ireland beyond the Euro 16 finals. He said that he had a brief chat with FAI chief exec John Delaney and joked that he could be there for the ‘next 15 years’.
“We just thought we’d get Christmas and New Year out of the way,” he said. “I actually saw John today and I think he wants to get things moving so in the next few weeks I think there’ll probably be some sort of chat about it.”