Sunday 8 December 2019

'I'd have wanted to kill a few of them last night'

Keane annoyed by lethargic Belarus defeat

Roy Keane is demanding a big improvement from the Irish team after their defeat to Belarus. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Roy Keane is demanding a big improvement from the Irish team after their defeat to Belarus. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

If the story of Tuesday night was the anxiety and tension that surrounded the paring down of Ireland's Euro 2016 squad, it's clear that Roy Keane was experiencing different emotions.

This trip to Cork was a homecoming of sorts for the Ireland assistant, whose name was chanted by the Turner's Cross crowd during the slightly sheepish lap of honour which followed a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Belarus.

The assistant manager did have sympathy with some of the individuals that were subsequently shown the door. He doesn't know of anybody with a bad word to say about David Forde and admitted there was a cruel aspect to his departure. Eunan O'Kane was referenced as a player that might have a future.

Darron Gibson? In polite terms, his former Manchester United colleague indicated that the Derry man really should have gone out on loan.

But as he landed at the Radisson Blu Hotel after training at the nearby Fota Island resort, it was clear that Keane was there to send a message to some players who did make the plane. His disgust with the performance in the Belarus non-event was thinly disguised.


In trademark fashion, he precisely fired the bullets. "I'd have wanted to kill a few of them last night," he quipped.

Aiden McGeady, an old sparring partner, might well have been on top of the list.

"I think he can play a lot better but maybe that's the story of Aiden's career," he said.

A question about Jeff Hendrick's and Daryl Murphy's lack of match sharpness was intercepted before it could be completed.

"You could tell," he said. "The two players you've mentioned have got to up the ante. Sometimes we fall into it and make excuses for players that they've not played football.

"They're still training, they still have to control the ball and run. You can forgive match sharpness but you've got to get yourself in good shape and prepare properly. You're playing international football. Control the bloody ball. Pass it and move to your mates. And if you lose it, run back like you care."

Later on, a discussion about Murphy revealed that Keane was willing to cut the Ipswich player some slack as he continues his search for a breakthrough international goal.

"I don't think he was getting service, particularly in the first half," he explained. "People were giving him passes and you're thinking, 'Listen, would you like that sort of pass? In the neck with three fellas around you.' But Murph's gotta make something happen."

The lingering sense was that the midfielders - unsurprisingly enough given his background - were the target for his public dressing down along with misfiring wide man McGeady.

Hendrick and local favourite David Meyler did not push their case for involvement in the finals.

"It was a good reality check for everyone last night, that's what football does to you," he said. "A reality check for one or two who thought they were good players.

"We'll be better than that (against Sweden), don't worry. We will have players on the pitch who didn't play last night. We'll have a stronger team out, it's simple."

Keane was happy enough to list the players that are in the good books, the performers with an attitude that naturally lifts the tempo in games and on the training pitch.


They will be the characters that he will look to next week when he envisages that the training will get more competitive. Peaking at the right time is part of the strategy; today's session will be followed by a golf outing and the overall Cork visit has been accompanied by ceremonial duties.

"People go on about pushing players, but there are certain lads in our group that you don't have to push," he explained. "You don't have to push Jon Walters, Seamus Coleman, Glenn Whelan who trained this morning with the other lads who didn't play

"The balance of training at this stage of the season, it's short and sharp, that would be the phrase we're using.

"Plenty of recovery, plenty of rest, but the lads who are doing it, whatever you're doing, then do it properly. Even if training is 45 minutes or an hour, do it properly. Football is about good habits and one or two of our players just need to get into that mindset."

Shane Long is in the right place at the moment, with Keane stating that Ireland might have beaten Belarus if the Southampton attacker had featured from the outset.

"He's in good form and confidence is the word that I would use about Shane at the moment. He's probably playing for a new contract," he added, with a grin. "He's 29 now, isn't he? And he seems to be peaking.

"I think the goals he has got for Ireland in the last few years and in the last few months (for Southampton) have no doubt given him that boost.

"With Robbie (Keane) coming towards an end, Shane maybe sees it as does he want to be the main man. The signs are that I think he can be.

"He can play in a couple of different roles. He can play in two up front, can do a good job on his own. I think in the modern game over the last five or six years, it has been obsessed with possession.

"With Shane and the way he plays, it seems to be coming back into it where teams are a bit more direct and stretching teams. And Shane does that."

The old-school attributes always appeal to Keane. He was relaxed when he got around to speaking with newspaper journalists, but had finished his stint in front of the cameras by bemoaning the softness of the modern pro.

All talk of scans and knocks and bumps and bruises tend to draw a sceptical response from the 44-year-old.

"I'm worried when players aren't carrying knocks," he said. "You're supposed to be carrying knocks by tackling people, hitting them at pace.

"Hitting them hard. It's not chess you're playing. And there's none of this, 'It's match day - so I need to sit in the pool for an hour and a half', if you know what I mean."

We knew what he meant.

When the moment is right, Keane likes to put out a wake-up call and this was about reminding fortunate members of the 23 that they had nothing to celebrate.

He is asked if he is satisfied with the set-up ahead of next Wednesday's move to Versailles and knows where the line of questioning is going.

"I'll obviously head home," he laughed, dismissing the suggestion that the FAI might encounter logistical issues.

Keane is not worried about that department. He'd already made his point.

Keane on ...

Darron Gibson

"The manager has been up front with Gibbo. He's not played much football. There might have been one or two opportunities to go on loan which didn't happen for one reason or other. It was always going to make

it difficult for him."

Robbie Keane

"His track record and recovery rate is pretty good. It's not ideal to be missing training, of course not. Do we think he will be available for Sweden? The answer is probably yes. Robbie knows when he needs to push himself."

Harry Arter

"I think he spoke to his own medical staff the last day or two, so we knew he was struggling. We're disappointed for him but, as I said to him last night, he'll be back in the group before you know it. You can't please everybody."

James McCarthy

"There has been progress. In the last few days he's been a bit more positive with his mindset and attitude. I think he was worried he wasn't going to be fit enough to make it. I'd be quietly confident he would make the Sweden match."

Daryl Murphy

"Obviously I am not a striker but he could do with a goal. Even the chance he had in the second half, we were all hoping and praying that he knocks it in. But then we appreciate all the other stuff that Murph does. He has played a big part in the other games for us. His work rate, he tires people, is physically a handful but, again, skipping to the chase, could he do with a goal? Absolutely. And there's only one person who can do anything about that and that's Murph."

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