12.11.2015 02:15 h

Ireland boss O'Neill eyes Bosnia and beyond

Martin O'Neill wants to stay on as Republic of Ireland manager no matter what happens in the coming week's two-legged Euro 2016 play-off with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The former Celtic manager celebrated his second anniversary in charge of Ireland earlier this week and admitted in the build-up to Friday's first leg in Zenica that he was keen to stay on.

Skipper Robbie Keane backed his manager, saying it would be "silly" for the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) to lose faith in O'Neill, who has taken Ireland to the cusp of qualifying for what would be just the third European Championship appearance in the country's history.

"Obviously if we could qualify, that would be great, and if we could go on to France, I would be delighted to do that," said O'Neill.

"But if we didn't qualify, John (Delaney, FAI chief executive) and myself will sit down and see where we go.

"I think John and the board would want it to continue and I have enjoyed it immensely. I am absolutely open to it.

"We had a conversation after Scotland (a Euro 2016 qualifying game in June) and John was very supportive, and felt that this was the way that we wanted to go forward, and it was very pleasing to hear that was the case.

"We haven't really talked about it since, but I haven't been pressing because there are actually very important things to deal with."

First up is in-form Bosnia, with O'Neill facing a selection headache of an unwelcome variety.

Shane Long, who scored a famous winner against world champions Germany last month, will miss the first leg to stay at club Southampton for treatment on an ankle injury.

In addition, goalkeeper Shay Given is injured, while veteran defender John O'Shea and influential forward Jon Walters are suspended for the first leg.

Seamus Coleman, Wes Hoolahan, Jame McCarthy, Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson, meanwhile, are all on yellow cards, meaning that another booking would rule them out of Monday's return leg in Dublin.

"At some time along the way you have to go with the players who you know are available and can start a game for you," O'Neill said.

Keane, who was likely to start on the bench before news of Long's absence was confirmed, believes the team are improving under O'Neill and says failure to make it to France next year would be a major disappointment.

"I think you've seen from the very start of the campaign, as a group we've grown into it," said the 35-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy frontman.

"It would be silly if the manager didn't get a new contract. He's obviously done a great job.

"We want to finish off this campaign with qualification to France. We started the campaign off having that goal in our mind and we'd certainly be disappointed if we didn't do it."

Bosnia coach Mehmed Bazdarevic is hoping his homework on Ireland will help his side record a fourth consecutive competitive win in the contest at the Bilino Polje Stadium.

Bosnia finished third in Group B behind Wales and Belgium, but Bazdarevic has confidence that they can overcome O'Neill's men, who he has analysed in depth in the run-up to Friday's clash.

"We have studied them in detail. We know they play with heart, desire and come in form," he said.

"I hope that with our fans, who stick with us in good and bad, we can do something good in this match."

Bosnia will be without Everton midfielder Muhamed Besic as he completes a three-game ban, while Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and Roma pair Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic are among six players who are a yellow card away from missing the return leg.