ROY Keane believes that pressure from Everton is compromising the Irish careers of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy but claimed that the latter could have taken a personal decision to risk involvement in Friday's defeat to Scotland.
he Ireland assistant manager vented his frustration at the attitude of the Merseyside club and their manager Roberto Martinez in an extraordinary press briefing in Portmarnock which culminated with Keane arguing with a couple of newspaper journalists about his standing in the light of last week's disturbance at the team hotel.
Prior to that fraught exchange, a composed but calculated Keane dealt with a range of issues arising from the defeat to Scotland and his lengthy musings on the situation with McCarthy, in particular, are likely to cause a stir at Goodison Park.
The 24-year-old missed the 1-0 defeat at Celtic Park with a hamstring problem that came up clear in a scan on the eve of the game but remained a cause of concern.
Martin O'Neill suggested on Friday night that McCarthy might have played if it was a club match and hinted that the player's 'psychological' state was a factor in the decision that he would sit it out.
Keane now believes that a sit-down with Martinez is necessary with a view to the future as he fears further issues for important Euro 2016 qualifying matches.
"If it carries on for the next year or two, it would put a lot of pressure on James and that's unfair on the player," he said.
The 43-year-old stressed repeatedly that he sympathised with McCarthy's position, noting the irony of similarities with his own playing career.
Nevertheless, he speculated that the Glaswegian could have taken matters into his own hands and risked the wrath of his employers by joining training on Thursday and testing his fitness for an encounter where the Irish midfield duo Darron Gibson and Jeff Hendrick struggled to really make an impression.
"It is a difficult one," said Keane, "And it's a big downside of international football. When a player turns up and they're not sure if they're going to be fit, you have to try and be fair to the club and you obviously have to be try and be fair to the player.
"But you're working for your country and you want to get the right result. So it's a difficult one for James as well.
"And I can speak from experience; he's under lots of pressure. And also you're hoping the player can make the decision and say, 'I'll give it a go', or whatever it might be."
"We can talk all day about X-rays and scans. I worry that he's under lots of pressure, particularly from Everton's point of view, because every time there is an international match, it does seem to be Seamus and James under lots of pressure. They're turning up or they mightn't turn up or they're struggling."
When the highly-rated stars missed last month's draw with Germany, O'Neill diplomatically said that he would give Everton the benefit of the doubt. The pair returned to action against Keane's Aston Villa four days after Gelsenkirchen and it is clear that the Irish camp are concerned about repeat scenarios.
Keane thinks that a meeting between O'Neill and Martinez is necessary, although the Spaniard's reaction to the Corkman's typically cutting assessment of the medical bulletins that come from Merseyside in the run-up to international breaks will be interesting.
"You always get the impression from Everton that Seamus and James are both barely able to walk, [that] type of thing," continued Keane, with deadpan delivery. "So when they actually turn up and they are walking through the reception... Praise the lord. It's a miracle.
"Obviously, the manager, Roberto Martinez, is going to try and look after Everton. That's only natural as well.
"Roberto, I don't think he has ever played senior level at international level and maybe he doesn't appreciate how big it is for us and how big the games are for us.
"You could argue all day but I think it's about getting the balance right when the qualifiers come around.
"If you think a player has half a chance... I always hear about people talking about players being 100pc fit, I don't know too many players who are 100pc fit, I don't know what that means. Ultimately the person who can suffer is the player," continued Keane, "I have experienced all that myself and there are two sides to the argument
"So there has to be, I think, some sort of sit-down conversation. I think Martin's been more than good enough here, particularly the friendlies [last summer] but these are big qualifying matches now.
"And you're just, I think, looking for a bit of fairness and try and get the balance right.
"Unfortunately for us, whatever way you look at it, James didn't train all week - it's not has if he went out and had a jog, it's not as if he's joined in a little bit of possession. So that was a difficult one.
"But, also, sometimes it may be up to the player to say, 'Listen, I'm going to try and train, whatever my club manager says or whatever the doctor says or whatever the scan says'. Because you do know your own body."
Keane dismissed the theory that the prospect of booing at Celtic Park was in some way playing on McCarthy's mind. "They declared for Ireland, they are Irish and are proud to be involved with us. I don't think that was an issue. Why would it be?"
His scepticism is reserved for the influence of Everton and he later made an unprompted reference to Coleman's absence from Germany in the context of the emergence of Derby right full Cyrus Christie as a back-up option; he is set to debut against the United States tomorrow now that he has received clearance. Keane was asked about Christie's statement that he can also provide cover on the left side of defence.
"Possibly," he said, "Left-back, obviously we've got Stephen Ward and you'll always think that Marc Wilson could do a job at left-back, that's fine.
"Cyrus is more natural at right-back and if there's going to be more sagas over the next few years with Everton and Seamus then we want players to be ready to step in because obviously we know Seamus is a very important player.
"We don't want the predicament of going to play the world champions and playing a midfielder [David Meyler] at right-back."
The number two had other matters to get off his chest. Christie is a friend of exciting Villa prodigy Jack Grealish who is still mulling over his international future. Keane delivered a caustic update on the 19-year-old's self-imposed limbo.
There was a flurry of excitement pre-game on Friday when a supportive shamrock-laden tweet from Grealish prior to kick-off was interpreted as another statement of Irish intent.
Keane offered the opinion that resolution is a long way off and insinuated that it is not the fault of the teenager.
"I don't ask Jack anymore," he said, "Sometimes it's respect, you don't want to pester people but, unfortunately, a lot would be coming from Jack's dad [Kevin]. Knowing his dad, we could be waiting a bloody long while."