Wednesday 18 January 2017

'Shave that beard' - Martin O'Neill recalls hilarious post-match embrace with Roy Keane

Published 23/06/2016 | 15:36

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (right) and assistant Roy Keane celebrate qualifying for the round of 16 after the Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill (right) and assistant Roy Keane celebrate qualifying for the round of 16 after the Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille.

Martin O'Neill has given Roy Keane an urgent instruction to shave his beard in case they have to share another glorious moment like the one in Lille last night.

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Speaking after a late return to the Irish team base in Versialles, O'Neill was cleary buoyant and ready to share a joke or too.

Asked what he said to his No. 2 at the end of the game, he laughed: I told him to shave his beard off, it was rough on my chin."

"Then I told him I don't want him to hug me again ever. He said you are an ugly sod which I agreed totally and I said he wasn't Paul Newman either," he laughed.

"It was memorable but there's no such thing as private moments any more. The team was fantastic but the players are like 15-years-olds and of course it was all up on Facebook."

There were words of congratulation from veteran Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was one of those rested on the night after recovering from a bout of flu.

O'Neill revealed: "He was very complimentary, which was nice considering he's been one of the great goalkeepers of all time."

O'Neill described joyful scenes on the way back to the team base in Versailles.

"The scenes in the stadium were almost replicated in the dressing room. The players were very emotional... Robbie Brady's face epitomised how we all felt.

"It was a wonderful moment, we had a great journey home, it was memorable."

O'Neill agreed that his players have now turned themselves into heroes to match the men of the 80s and 90s, a point Ronnie Whelan made before the game

"It is nice to be mentioned in same breath as Ronnie Whelan. He was a great player for Ireland, great player for Liverpool. If they are being considered in the same light they should take that as a big compliment," said O'Neill.

Stephen Ward is the only doubt for Ireland in advance of the Sunday's huge game against host nation France.

O'Neill revealed how Ward played through pain to keep going against Italy.

"The first thing I will have to look it is how players came out of game. Stephen Ward picked up an injury in the first half. His ankle is well blown up. He's desperate to play. He did very well last night," said O'Neill.

"Jon Walters is trying to make an attempt to get fit too. They put in an amazing amount of effort, someone like James McClean could sleep for a week after the effort he put in," he added.

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