Martin O’Neill says he is leaving his role as Republic of Ireland manager with “a heavy heart”.
It was announced today that the 65-year-old and his assistant Roy Keane have left their roles with the FAI by mutual consent after five years in charge.
In a statement released by the League Managers’ Association, O’Neill described fulfilling the role as a “lifetime ambition” and a “huge honour”.
“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,” the statement read, as reported by Sky Sports.
“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.”
O’Neill also claimed the Boys in Green’s famous 1-0 win over Italy at Euro 2016 is the “nation’s best ever achievement” in the European Championships, and also recalled the stunning wins over Germany in Dublin and Wales in Cardiff.
“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 the 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 former Celtic and Aston Villa boss also reserved special praise for the Irish fans, the players, Roy Keane, and the rest of his backroom staff.
“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 that very same spirit, imbued by the fans, on to the field of play.”
“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.”
Ireland endured a miserable 2018, suffering relegation from League B of the UEFA Nations League and picking up just one win in their last 11 matches.
There is intense speculation over who will replace O’Neill and Keane, with Mick McCarthy, Stephen Kenny, Sam Allardyce, and Steve Bruce are among those linked with the new vacancy.