Sunday 15 December 2019

Video: Martin O'Neill stays silent on Roy Keane's row with Everton

Cormac Byrne

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has sidestepped questions on Roy Keane's comments regarding Everton and how they regard international football.

Keane took Roberto Martinez to task over his handling of injuries to key Ireland players Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, who both missed last month's qualifiers with McCarthy also sitting out this time around after reporting with a hamstring problem.

Keane said: "You always get the impression from Everton that Seamus and James are both barely able to walk, that type of thing. So when they actually turn up and they are walking through the reception, 'Praise the Lord, it's a miracle'."

Responding to that, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright told Sky Sports News HQ: "I'm a big fan of Roy Keane's but he does say some stupid things.

"That is just totally totally unfair, we absolutely love our players going on international duty and we never ever get in the way of them and Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton."

A tetchy Martin O'Neill chose not to weigh into the argument during today's pre-game press conference ahead of Ireland's clash with the USA tomorrow night.

Asked about the comments of both his assistant and Kenwright, O'Neill said: "Well first of all, I haven't picked up on Roy's comments. I don't follow him around. I haven't had the chance to read what he has said.

"From my own perspective, regardless of what Roy has said, I think the situation was this: way back, let me put it this way, the two lads were not fit for the game against Gibraltar and Germany, and obviously played [for Everton] a couple of days later. That is understandable.

"I had spoken to Seamus and Seamus just wasn't right. I didn't speak to James at the time, but there was a thought that he might have played against Manchester United then, but didn't do so.

"I hadn't really a problem with that at all, it was just that this particular time, James does have a muscle injury. He came here, he was wanting to try it and really wanted to give it a go.

"We always thought that time would be against us and I think he will be perfectly all right to play at the weekend for his club, and really there isn't much more I can say about it."

Asked further if he would now look at Keane's comments, O'Neill said: "It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning, it's not, honestly. I have other things to do at this minute.

"I'm not saying they are more important, but they are issues I have to address. I might get a chance to go down and find out what was said on both sides, and then I will take a view."

O'Neill reiterated his support for his assistant during the conference.

“I chose to bring him in in the first place,” O'Neill added, “and he’s been terrific around the lads, all that I wanted him to be. He’s got a mind of his own and unless what he’s said is absolutely contradictory to what I’m saying then I don’t have a problem.

O'Neill's defence was backed wholeheartedly by defender John O'Shea, a former Manchester United team-mate of Keane's.

O'Shea said: "As the manager says, it's brilliant having him on board and I'd definitely echo those sentiments, without a doubt. "

Asked what he brings to the Republic, O'Shea added: "Well obviously, along with the rest of Martin's coaching team, Roy's experience playing at such a high level, just his passion for the job - all those factors combined are very helpful."

Keane insisted on Sunday that the publicity surrounding him had not been a distraction in the build-up to the Euro 2016 qualifier in Glasgow, which Ireland lost 1-0, and O'Shea agreed.

He said: "Look it doesn't bother us one bit, honestly. We don't see it either way. It's more yourselves that really enjoy those facts. We just have our jobs to do on the pitch.

"Ultimately we train great, everything is prepared for us great and it's up to us to do the job on the pitch."

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