Sunday 15 December 2019

O'Neill: I'm delighted that Ireland was Roy's first choice

Declan Whooley

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has said he never questioned Roy Keane's commitment to Ireland, but is delighted that he chose his country as his first choice today.

Keane quit his role as assistant manager with Aston Villa with immediate effect this morning, saying that he was unable to commit fully to his assistant roles with the Midlands club and Ireland.

"Ultimately, my roles with Villa and Ireland and combining my commitment to these have become too much," he said.

"It isn't fair to either Villa or Ireland, so I've made this decision.

Speaking on a video released by the FAI this evening, O'Neill said that the pair spoke about the issue at their last get-together but has never had any problem with Keane attempting to double job.

"We had a brief discussion about the issue at the last international get together and I think he was more concerned about committing himself or having that full commitment to the Aston Villa club job and to ourselves."

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, and assistant manager Roy Keane Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

"I've said in the past and it's worth re-iterating I never had a problem whatsoever with his commitment to the Republic of Ireland. Everything that I was hoping he would bring to the table, for the want of a better word, I thought he did do. Commitment, the enthusiasm and that strong desire that we know he possesses, all of those things have been no problem whatsoever."

The Ireland manager said that while he was "not party to his everyday involvement at Aston Villa", he believes a hectic summer and his longing to spend more time with his family played crucial roles in his decision to quit the Premier League club.

Family Time

"I think that what happened is he didn't have any summer holiday. He went straight from international duty with us in America, straight to the job at Aston Villa. I think eventually those sort of things catch up with you one side of Christmas or the other."

"He himself was more concerned with that, more worried about the commitment."

"I think maybe just a little bit of family time now at the minute, I think that's perhaps something he was missing."

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane keep a close eye on the Irish training session in Malahide yesterday

On a number of occasions during the video, O'Neill praised Keane's commitment to the Irish cause and was relieved when the Cork man decided to choose country over club for his continued role as assistant manager.

"Roy being the perfectionist that he is, I think he wanted to give everything to every single cause."

"I'm not his keeper, far from it. I think the number of game he was covering for us still was pretty decent. Even matches that didn't concern Aston Villa he was turning up."

"His role here with the Republic of Ireland has been excellent and he's fulfilled all the points that I thought he would."

"He has decided to make the choice and naturally I'm delighted Ireland have been his first choice."

Villa respect

Villa manager Paul Lambert said that he "totally respected" the decision made by Keane.

 "Roy came to me this morning and he informed me that, ultimately, the difficulty of combining both roles has prompted his decision, which I respect totally.

"In the brief period we have worked together he has been great in the role and I understand his reasons for leaving."

CEO Tom Fox added: “We thank Roy for his time at the Club and we wish him the best with Ireland.

“Our focus now will be on working with Paul to identify the right person to work alongside him and to help us continue on our journey to return the Club to its rightful place in the Premier League.”


In his statement today, the former Manchester United captain thanked Villa for giving him the opportunity to work with the Midlands club.

"I'd like to thank Paul for giving me a great opportunity to come to a brilliant football club, I've really enjoyed my experiences at Villa and I wish the management team, the players, the supporters and the Club nothing but the best going forward," Keane added in his statement.

Villa has denied speculation that Roy Keane left his role as assistant manager at the club following a training ground altercation yesterday.

Rumours quickly began to spread that the former Manchester United captain was involved in a training ground bust-up with a senior player, but this was vigorously denied by the club.


Keane took no part in training today and Sky Sports reporter Pete Colley, who was at the ground covering the dramatic news, says the club has responded to the claims of an incident with a player.

"The rumours that came out straight away were that there had been a bust-up in training yesterday with a senior player," he told Sky Sports News.

"The club totally refutes that suggestion, but these rumours emanated within about half an hour of this statement coming out so you read into that what you will," he added.

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