Thursday 22 February 2018

O'Neill lashes back at 'master tactician of blame game' Koeman as row descends into farce

Ronald Koeman is not pleased with James McCarthy and Martin O'Neill
Ronald Koeman is not pleased with James McCarthy and Martin O'Neill
'O’Neill rejects Koeman’s accusations, with the tension between the pair dating back to October when McCarthy came back from injury to play against Georgia and Moldova.' Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill hit back at Ronald Koeman in the war of words over the use of James McCarthy, describing his Everton counterpart as the "master tactician of the blame game".

The war of words escalated further last night with the Everton manager questioning some of O'Neill's facts in a Twitter post last night. The Ireland boss released a statement through the FAI which detailed his unhappiness at Koeman in the furore surrounding McCarthy's attempts to play in last Friday's World Cup qualifier.

Koeman has infuriated O'Neill by claiming that he ignored medical advice from Everton and Ireland to name the player in his starting XI for the Aviva Stadium game.

McCarthy aggravated an ongoing hamstring injury in the warm-up and, when he reported pain, O'Neill opted to replace him with David Meyler.

O'Neill rejects Koeman's accusations, with the tension between the pair dating back to October when McCarthy came back from injury to play against Georgia and Moldova. The Dutchman subsequently accused the FAI of "overloading" the player.

O'Neill's response laid the blame for McCarthy's ongoing hamstring problems squarely at the door of his employer. And the Derry native went back through the tale of Everton's season to make that point.

"Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy," said O'Neill. "Perhaps a review of Everton's pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.

"James had a magnificent tournament at Euro 2016, playing his last game in very late June. He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?

"It should be added that James last played for his country on October 9, 2016 - almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton's supervision. James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation.

"Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better."

Koeman responded with a post on social media, questioning parts of the FAI statement.

"James McCarthy began his pre-season three and a half weeks after Ireland were knocked out of the Euros. From the master tactician," Koeman tweeted.

After Tuesday's friendly with Iceland, O'Neill said he would be willing to speak with his Everton counterpart about ongoing issues around the midfielder's wellbeing, adding that he had attempted to make contact (before Christmas) and received no response.

However, Koeman made it clear yesterday morning that he would expect his club to deal with any correspondence.

He reiterated his view that O'Neill should not have put the Glaswegian in his original starting side, but rowed back slightly on his assertions about the views of the Irish medical department, stating that they had felt it was "high risk" to pitch McCarthy into the fray.

"That (discussions with FAI and O'Neill) is a case for the club, Everton. It's not my business," said Koeman, after reading a prepared statement and then being asked how the matter could be resolved. "It's not the question for now, that's all I have to say about this. I'm not surprised but disappointed."

In his opening message, Koeman made it clear that he had told McCarthy he was frustrated with his part in the affair.

"James had an injury when he reported for Ireland duty last week. Our medical team made the Ireland medical team aware of this of course," said Koeman.

"Everton's medical team advises extreme caution, not only due to the current injury but due to the previous injuries too. And the assessment by the Ireland medical team was that it would be a high risk for James to play against Wales.

"But James is of course strong and decided to play for his country. So when asked if he was fit to play he said he felt he was fit and he was selected to play by the Ireland manager who, in my opinion, in this instance was not protecting the player.

"Clearly James was not fit to play. He had trained only for two days with Ireland and broke down during the warm-up. He played only one game from the start in 2017. He did not play for three weeks before the Wales game.

"In my opinion he would need at least one full week of training sessions with the team to be declared fit. James - and I spoke to James - needs to take responsibility of this, but this is not the first time."

McCarthy is out of the today's clash with Liverpool

Irish Independent

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