Sunday 15 December 2019

Keane 'distraction' won't affect Irish players, says Martin O'Neill

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has admitted that assistant Roy Keane's alleged altercation at the team hotel on Wednesday was a 'distraction' in the build-up to tonight's Celtic Park showdown with Scotland.

But the Ireland manager has asserted that the episode had no impact on his players ahead of the key Euro 2016 qualifier.

"It's only a distraction, that's all it was," said the 62-year-old upon arrival at Celtic Park last night.

"We are fine, the players are fine and the man in question is fine too and we are ready to go."

O'Neill was asked if his No 2 had spoken to the players but appeared perplexed by the suggestion.

"Why would he do that?" he said. "He spoke to me, that's all that mattered. I don't think Robbie Keane, as captain, was particularly interested in hearing what happened. The incident is over at the moment and I think that's it."

Promises

O'Neill's immediate concern is the loss of midfielders James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan for what promises to be an epic showdown with one of Ireland's main rivals for a place in Euro 2016. He is ready to place his faith in Derby's Jeff Hendrick as a replacement for McCarthy, while his club colleague Richard Keogh should deputise for Marc Wilson.

Scotland boss Gordon Strachan has warned Irish fansthat they are coming to Scotland Park, not Celtic Park, adding that over 50,000 home fans will be present. The travelling party anticipate a strong Irish presence around the ground, though, and O'Neill is excited by the whole occasion.

"I think the support we get will be vocal and it will be terrific for us," he said. "We think we can win the match but I'm sure Gordon thinks that as well."

Irish Independent

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