DUBLIN (AP) — Martin O'Neill's big task as the new Ireland coach will be to qualify the team for the 2016 European Championship. His first job seems to be convincing people he was right to hire the divisive Roy Keane as his deputy.

The 61-year-old Northern Irishman deployed plenty of his trademark charm and wit to deflect a roomful of skepticism that his surprise partnership with the mercurial Keane could work. He even jokingly played up the scenario that Keane would soon be bossing and bullying him.

When asked how quickly Keane had accepted his offer of employment, O'Neill said it took Keane "about 4 ½ seconds. He was absolutely delighted with it. I said to him the roles that we would have. And he told me he would reverse those in about 10 minutes," O'Neill said to rising laughter in the press conference.

"That is not true," he added to clarify.

And O'Neill, known for his candor and analytical mind as both a coach and TV commentator, conceded that Keane brings a more emotional element into Ireland's new management team.

"I don't intend to change Roy too much — maybe make the occasional adjustment, if that's possible. And a little bit of volatility will do nobody any harm," he said.

For all the excitement at his appointment — for the past decade O'Neill has been the fans' favorite to lead Ireland — he could hardly have picked a higher-profile figure to be his assistant manager. The Football Association of Ireland kept Keane away from Saturday's news conference; he was reportedly sent to scout Irish players' performances at the Aston Villa-Cardiff match.

Ireland needed a new start after firing Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who alienated Irish fans with a defensive-minded, long-ball system that ended in failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

O'Neill, a former midfielder for Northern Ireland and Nottingham Forest, has spent a quarter-century building a strong reputation as a manager able to make the most of flawed, lackluster squads. But the former Celtic, Leicester and Aston Villa boss had been left without a management role since being sacked last year by Sunderland. Notably, he spent some of that time working alongside Keane as a TV analyst. His first test as Irish manager comes Nov. 15 in a home friendly versus Latvia.

But he faces a challenge to keep the spotlight from Keane, the former Manchester United and Ireland midfield star who has left a trail of management bust-ups in his wake. Keane became the most divisive figure in all of Irish sports in 2002 when he denounced Ireland's preparations for the World Cup, confronted then-manager Mick McCarthy about his competence, and was kicked off the team. Management failures and unhappy clubhouses at Sunderland and Ipswich followed. Most recently, his Unite mentor Alex Ferguson harshly criticized Keane's temperament in his autobiography.

"The hardest part of Roy's body is his tongue," Ferguson wrote.

O'Neill declined to comment on whether Ferguson's written criticisms were fair, saying he did "know enough about their spats and what led Roy to leave."

But O'Neill said his job was not "to change Roy Keane. Not at all. I want Roy Keane essentially the way he is. That's what I want. ... I think he's very, very keen, he's very excited by it, and he wants to do well. That's really enough for me."

When asked whether Keane would be his natural successor in the top Irish job, O'Neill deftly passed the question to FAI chief John Delaney sitting beside him.

"If we get to a major tournament, obviously we'll renew the contract," Delaney said. "I'll hope we're not appointing a (new) manager for a long, long time."