Ireland’s recent World Cup qualifier seems to have devoted as much attention to the managers’ media comments than the actual game itself, and now the legendary punditry duo Eamon Dunphy and John Giles have given their take.
Seamus Coleman’s broken leg aside, the biggest talking points to come from that match at the Aviva were in relation to Roy Keane’s comments before the game (as well as Chris Coleman’s after), and Dunphy and Giles have now called on the Ireland assistant manager to be removed from media duties in the build-up to the side’s fixtures.
Speaking on Dunphy’s podcast The Stand, the pair made the call in response to Keane’s pre-match press conference in which Martin O’Neill’s second-in-command claimed that the best way to stop Wales forward Gareth Bale would be to “hit him.”
Words taken out of context perhaps but nonetheless, the tone was set for the encounter and Dunphy, no stranger to the sharp end of Keane’s tongue himself, sees that as reason enough for the ex-captain to have the microphone taken away from him:
“The whole thing about Keane giving press conferences is troubling,
“He gave a press conference before the Wales game and when he was asked about Gareth Bale, what he said was, ‘we’re going to hit him’ and then he said, ‘Hard, but fairly’.
“The newspapers just took the phrase ‘hit him’ and that was the headline.
“In my opinion, that would have put ideas into the heads of those in the Welsh camp. We all know how that ended up.
“I don’t think Keane should be giving press conferences, provocative press conferences.”
Former Ireland manager Giles concurred, arguing that Keane’s comments were distracting and were of little benefit to either the team or O’Neill with an important World Cup qualifier to prepare for, but was more keen to blame the press misinterpretation of the “hit him” comments rather than Keane himself for making them:
“For his own good and Martin good (he should stop). If you asked me who the assistant manager of Wales is. I couldn’t tell you,” he said.
“There is no other assistant manager that does it.
“I have a slightly different take on [Keane’s comments on Bale]. He said ‘fairly’ and the press reported it (as ‘hit him’). That’s the fault of the press.
“I thought there was a bit going on before half-time. There was an elbow here and an elbow there and Ireland were definitely the more aggressive. They weren’t dirty.
“I believe, for what it’s worth, that Coleman said, ‘These guys are bullying us’ and all managers hate that. Any manager will say, ‘we’ve got to respond’.”
The aggressive nature of the game had a role in Coleman’s injury, which will rule the Ireland captain out for the remainder of the qualification campaign. How much of an impact Keane’s words had on the tone of the match is unclear but Dunphy and Giles appear to be in no doubt that it was a huge factor.
Be sure to check out our brand new Irish football podcast The Mixer. In episode one we discuss Ronald Koeman vs. Martin O’Neill, the latest rounds of League of Ireland fixtures and we chat to Cork City’s in-form striker Sean Maguire.