Martin O'Neill denies problem exists between Roy Keane and some Republic of Ireland players
By Lyall Thomas
Last Updated: 11/09/18 8:49am
Martin O'Neill has denied a problem exists between his assistant Roy Keane and some of the Republic of Ireland players after new revelations about his altercations with Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters.
An audio clip purporting to be Ireland's Stephen Ward discussing details of the confrontations, which happened in May, surfaced online just hours before O'Neill's Monday press conference ahead of Tuesday night's friendly against Poland in Wroclaw, live on Sky Sports Mix from 7.40pm.
O'Neill insists Ward's depiction does not tally with the version recounted to him by Keane and the player was not present in the squad at the time, and he defended Keane's approach to being his assistant boss.
"I'd have to say (there is) absolutely not (a problem between Keane and some of the players)," O'Neill said. "I think these things are important to say; first of all the incidents took place at the end of May when we were in camp, and surfaced some four months later.
"It wouldn't be the worst altercation between players and staff. I've had one with the man sitting beside me (David Meyler) on Friday. I have the utmost regard for him as a person. I might have a difference of opinion about his ability. But for him to take the criticism I gave him in front of the team was extremely strong.
"Sometimes, while the game has changed a little bit, there are some things you can say to a player, using a bit of industrial, heavy-duty language at the end of it all, that you think they can actually take and prove the person wrong.
"I've tried to do it, reasonably successfully in my playing days anyway, when I was getting stick on a weekly basis. At half-time in the European Cup final of 1980, when the same manager who had been criticising me for a number of years, almost on a daily basis, gave me the sort of praise he gave me - it was worth every minute of pain.
"In my time I've chosen two brilliant assistant managers; different characters, both world-class players, in John Robertson and Roy Keane. I've chosen them for different reasons and, at the end of it all, neither has ever let me down. John had a way with players - he could criticise. Roy has a different way at the end of it all - we know these things.
"If you're asking about Roy's criticism of players, let me tell you this is totally my responsibility, as is every kick the players make. I take full responsibility for what has happened there within this camp. I take the responsibility for it all at the end of the day, because that's my job.
"If there is still a difference over what was said, I accept that at this minute. I wasn't there at the time. Stephen certainly wasn't because he wasn't even around at the time. If he's picking up on other conversations, that I'm not sure about. But you'll also have to speak to Harry about it too."
O'Neill insisted the debacle remains a "sideshow" to the real issues his team faces of trying to blood new players and develop the team while securing qualification to the European Championships in two years' time.
He said: "It's an absolute sideshow. Of course we've got problems on the pitch, we've players injured and lost two competitive games on the trot. But in the previous 11 games, we only lost one.
"We're going through a stodgy period. We're trying to get young players through and get ready for the upcoming European Championships, so in terms of issues, there are absolutely none.
"These confrontations took place four months ago, they're surfacing now at the end of it all, and I'd be astonished if there was not another confrontation between now and November time. If there isn't, I'll start one myself."