'I've spoken to Stephen. He has been betrayed by some of his friends' - O'Neill
Martin O'Neill's press conference in Wroclaw yesterday was arguably the most extraordinary of his tenure as Ireland manager.
Last Thursday evening in Cardiff, O'Neill said that the issue of the row between his assistant Roy Keane and Harry Arter had been put to bed.
But the emergence of a private WhatsApp audio clip from Stephen Ward - which laid out the version of events he had heard - thrust the issue of Keane's rows with Arter (and Jon Walters) straight back on the news agenda.
O'Neill decided to deal with the issue at his pre-match press conference in Wroclaw.
He discussed Ward's Irish future, defended Keane's work and dealt with questions arising from the unexpected development.
Martin O'Neill on . . .
"Stephen wasn't there, he's just picking up on things. These incidents took place towards the end of May in a camp which is almost four months ago.
"If there is still a difference of what was said, I accept that at this minute - I wasn't there myself. Stephen certainly wasn't. I think some of you will have to speak to Harry (Arter) as well about it and I think some of you (media) do.
"I've spoken to Stephen. Do I have sympathy or empathy for a 33-year-old who has known about social media for a lengthy time and says he's just telling it to a crowd of mates?
"Today… probably not. Tomorrow… probably not also. He has been betrayed by some of his friends, who he has known for a long, long time. That will be a disappointment for him."
Will it affect Ward's Irish future
"Absolutely not. The only implication it has for Stephen is if he's fit to play and come with us and he'll be there. I assume he's apologised for himself and I think he's spoken to Roy as well. I have no problem with that. It will only be age and ability which prevents him coming to the next squads. But the answer is no.
"That is totally and utterly my responsibility. Absolutely my responsibility. And if I thought something was seriously and utterly out of hand that was going to cause ferocious consternation in the camp I would look at it regardless of who it was, I think that's how I have done that with my managerial career.
"Roy Keane was the driving force of his Manchester United team. He was looking for exacting standards and that's exactly what I want. That's not to say that every utterance that myself or Roy Keane makes is absolutely and utterly correct."
Have management ever ignored medical advice?
"The answer is never, never. Not only have I not done it at national level, I have never done it at club level. I have never gone against the advice of a doctor, in fact I have always erred on the side of caution.
"I have tried on occasion, when I think that somebody has a bit of a sore finger I have tried to convince them to play as I did not think that it was a major problem.
"And once or twice at Aston Villa I had one or two (players) who were brilliant footballers, brilliant, brilliant players who had the occasional broken nail."
His row with Meyler
"He didn't train brilliantly the next day (after Cardiff), not brilliantly, and he's a very good trainer.
"When I asked him he said he was disappointed at being left out of the team and I said you have to do a wee bit more at club level, look at your form at club level.
"I have the utmost regard for him as a person. I might have a difference of opinion on his ability, that's not the point.
"For him to take the criticism I gave him in front of the rest of the team was extremely strong. He's a really strong person.
"Hopefully the game hasn't changed that much that there is some things you can say to a player - and they can actually take it, and go out and prove, prove the person wrong."
Reconciliation between Keane and Arter
"It's a possibility. I think there is, a reconciliation is, yeah. I think it could happen and if it doesn't... I think genuinely that it can happen.
"Certainly Roy is up for it and the point you make (that Keane had perhaps overstepped the mark) is valid."
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