Friday 18 October 2019

Revealed: What Roy Keane said to Harry Arter to cause midfielder to quit Ireland squad

Harry Arter and (inset) Roy Keane
Harry Arter and (inset) Roy Keane
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

HARRY ARTER was subjected to an astonishing expletive-laden attack from Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane after FAI medical staff advised him to sit out a training session due to injury last June.

Cardiff City midfielder Arter has called a temporary halt to his Ireland career, telling manager Martin O'Neill that he would not return to the squad after the verbal assault that left his onlooking team-mates stunned.

Now the details of the abuse served up to Arter have been revealed, which has echoes of Keane's walkout from the Ireland squad in Saipan ahead of the 2002 World Cup after his infamous row with Ireland boss Mick McCarthy.

A witness told the Sunday World how:

  • After Arter and striker Jonathan Walters were told not to train by FAI medical staff due to injury concerns, Keane launched separate verbal tirades at both in the team hotel.
  • Amid his meltdown, Keane called Arter "a w***ker and a p***k" and suggested he did not rate him as a player and would not pick him if he was Ireland manager.
  • Arter didn't respond to Keane during the tirade, but Walters did snap back as the duo became embroiled in a heated exchange.
  • Ireland manager O'Neill was not present to witness Keane's rants at either Arter or Walters.

The row that has sent shock waves through Irish football has been simmering for several months.

"Keane went looking for the players and it's clear that he was going to tell them what he thought of them," the witness told The Sunday World.

"If a player is told he should not train by doctors, he can't ignore that advice and possibly aggravate a problem. That's why everyone was confused about Keane's attitude.

"Keane went for it. He called Arter every name under the sun, but we should not be surprised by that and it is not the first time they have clashed in recent years.

"Arter didn't say much and just went back into his room and a few players went in with him, but no-one who witnessed that was surprised when he said he would not be coming back. 

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"Keane probably told O'Neill his version of events, but he must realise now that this was well over the top."

In 2002, Keane famously quit the Ireland squad ahead of the World Cup after he claimed to have been accused by boss Mick McCarthy of feigning injury to avoid playing lower profile international matches and now, 16 years later, he has thrown similar accusations at two senior players.

The fallout from Keane's actions have piled the pressure on Ireland manager O'Neill, who is clinging on to his job after a depleted Ireland side were hammered 4-1 by Wales in their UEFA Nations League opener last Thursday.

Walters, who was a starter in Wales, has declined to comment on his row with Keane, while Arter has also kept a dignified silence as conspiracy theories flew over why he had called a halt to his international career.

Intriguingly, FAI officials also opted not to schedule any media duties for Keane during this international break, with O'Neill aware that the fracas with Arter and Walters was likely to become the focus of media attention during this international meet-up.

O'Neill surprisingly opted to confirm Keane had a bust-up with Arter and Walters in a media interview before he named his latest Ireland squad last month, with his decision to include Arter forcing the midfielder to make a decision over his immediate Ireland future.

Arter and O'Neill then met in London in the days before the final Ireland squad was confirmed, where the player informed his manager that he would not make himself available to play. While O'Neill fielded questions on the row during an uncomfortable media session last Monday, Keane side-stepped media duties ahead of the Wales game and there are no plans for him to speak to the press ahead of Tuesday's international against Poland.

The fallout is surprising given the huge respect Arter appears to have for Keane, as he offered up these comments to the Sunday World in an interview last year. "I don't want to sound like I'm brown-nosing him here, but Roy Keane is a footballer everyone should look up to for a variety of reasons," Arter stated.

"Everyone in the squad wants to try and impress him and get his respect.

"He was one of the best midfielders of his generation and there were plenty of reasons why he reached that level of excellence.

"The incident at the 2002 World Cup, when he walked out complaining about the training facilities, summed up what he is all about. He was used to the best at Man United and didn't understand why Ireland had to settle for something that wasn't up to those standards.

"We might be a small country, but there is no reason why we can't aim to make a big impression and top-class preparation gives any team the best chance to be successful.

"Roy Keane showed what can happen if you believe in yourself as a player and a team. It is an attitude that took him to the top of the game and we want to follow that example."

Arter's views on Keane have clearly shifted dramatically since then and there appears to be little prospect of him returning to the Ireland set-up while Keane retains his position as assistant manager.

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