Friday 23 February 2018

Martin O'Neill believes Roy Keane was wrong in Saipan walk-out

Sports Minister Leo Varadkar meets new Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and FAI chief executive John Delaney at Dublin Airport today in this image posted by the minister on his Twitter account
Sports Minister Leo Varadkar meets new Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and FAI chief executive John Delaney at Dublin Airport today in this image posted by the minister on his Twitter account
New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill arrives for his first press conference. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Press photographers await the arrival of Martin O'Neill in Dublin this afternoon. (Picture: David Conachy)
New Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill speaking at his first press conference. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
FAI chief executive John Delaney and new Ireland boss Martin O'Neill just minutes before his press conference was due to begin. (Picture: David Conachy)
The new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney during his first press conference. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and the new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during his first press conference. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
The new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill speaking at his first press conference. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
The new Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney. Gibson Hotel, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Dion Fanning and Marie Crowe

Martin O'Neill disagreed with Roy Keane's actions in Saipan, the new Ireland manager revealed yesterday.

"If you're going back to Saipan, way back in that time, I would have to say that my own view at that time, is that I would have disagreed with Roy," O'Neill said.

"I would have felt that, having qualified for the World Cup, it doesn't come around too often – for some great players it has never come at all – and here was this opportunity.

"I thought that would have been, regardless of what Roy would have felt about it before, this was a chance to participate in a World Cup and for a great player, even more so, from that viewpoint. So I would have had a disagreement with that."

O'Neill also admitted that he has shared his disapproval with Keane who responded by saying he disagreed with O'Neill's team selection in the 2003 UEFA Cup final when Celtic lost to Porto, and that he would have won it.

O'Neill's presentation to the media yesterday was dominated by questions about Keane and how the relationship between the two men will work. John Delaney, the FAI's chief executive, had said that the past between himself and Keane was dealt with in 30 seconds when they met recently but Saipan may never be overcome that easily.

Keane will meet the media on Wednesday when he will be expected to answer questions about his own relationship with the FAI, Delaney and now also, perhaps, his new boss's views on the defining moment of his Irish career, perhaps the defining moment in Irish football history.

O'Neill made no attempt to shirk the questions about Keane yesterday and appeared to enjoy the prospect of working with a man with a personality that has made him an "iconic" figure in world football.

He was, he said, aware of all that had happened in Saipan – "I wasn't living in Czechoslovakia at the time" – but he had no hesitation about approaching him to work as his assistant.

"I'm not going to change Roy Keane, don't want to change him. He will make the occasional adjustments, as we all have."

O'Neill will apply familiar methods. "All you will get from me is ferocious enthusiasm and hopefully a little bit of know-how and we can hope that somewhere along the way we wouldn't suffer the misfortune that befell the Irish side way back when France qualified. I will give absolutely everything I have, that is all I can promise."

While O'Neill was in Dublin, Keane was fulfilling his first official duty as his number two by attending Villa Park, where Aston Villa beat Cardiff City. Today, Keane will be at Old Trafford for Manchester United's clash with Arsenal.

Sunday Independent

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