2012 criticism was aimed at fans, not players - Roy Keane
Roy Keane has stressed that his criticism of the Irish mentality in Euro 2012 was aimed at supporters rather than the players.
The Corkman was not too impressed by some of the scenes in Poland that accompanied three defeats for Ireland and said as much in the aftermath of the 4-0 defeat to Spain in Gdansk.
"I think the players and even the supporters, they all have to change their mentality, it's just nonsense from players speaking after the games about how great the supporters are," said Keane, speaking his capacity as an ITV pundit.
"I'm not too happy with all that nonsense. To praise the supporters for sake of it. . . let's change that attitude towards Irish supporters. They want to see the team winning - let's not kid ourselves, we're a small country, we're up against it, but let's not just go along for the sing-song every now and again."
The comments were brought up when Keane was appointed Ireland assistant and he was pressed on it again at an event hosted by Today FM at the Cork Opera House on Wednesday night.
With the Irish squad listening on, O'Neill's deputy stressed that his comments were not intended as any criticism of the group's mindset heading into the competition.
"I was talking about the mentality of supporters," he said, "I truly believe players who went to the Euros last time believed they could have got out of the group. It's very difficult when you lose your first game.
"I didn't say for a minute the players were going over there thinking they were just happy to be there."
In the same interview, Keane said that 'some' of his public criticism of players in the aftermath of Tuesday's 2-1 defeat to Belarus was tongue in cheek.
He then sounded a confident note about the team's overall prospects.
"It's nice to have a little setback to remind you of the hard work ahead," he asserted.
"Everyone keeps saying it's going to be hard for us, but it's going to be hard for other teams. Any team that plays against us will know they will have to play, very, very well to get a decent result."
O'Neill was interviewed by Matt Cooper along with Keane and was in good form as he joked about his visit to his No 2's neck of the woods.
He also stressed his belief that his players will be mentally tuned in when the tournament starts, even if they weren't against Belarus.
"I think the players have good mentality. That strength wasn't shown on Tuesday but overall, when the big moments arrived, they showed they were up for it and they've come through the tests," he said.
"There's no bigger test than playing the world champions home and away. I hear Scotland talking about the fact the Republic of Ireland didn't beat them. Well we took four points off Germany."
Meanwhile, Ireland defender Stephen Ward - a survivor from Euro 2012 - believes that the focus will now turn to the games in France after 10 days which he viewed as more about fitness than friendlies.
"The last few weeks have been about getting the lads up to speed on fitness because we haven't played in a few weeks," said the left-back, who scored Ireland's goal against Belarus.
"The manager will get us all in and we'll be raring to go. Now that it's down to 23, I'm sure there will be work on the games to come now, how we're going to play, our set-pieces."
Ward refused to be drawn on his own prospects of figuring in France. He has come back into favour under O'Neill who has picked him for big games, although he has tended to select Robbie Brady at left-full in matches where he expects Ireland to be on the front foot.
"Listen, all you can do is go out there and give the manager a headache," said the Dubliner.
"Any time you get a cap for your country is an honour. I'm delighted to be in the squad and we'll see what happens when we get over there."