Ahead of Tuesday’s friendly match with the USA, most of the discussion at Monday’s press conference with Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was around his assistant manager Roy Keane and his actions of late.
O’Neill was quick to defend Keane but seem irked at having to talk about his assistant rather than the players and the game ahead.
The Not-So-Sweet Toffees
At a press conference on Sunday evening, Keane blasted Everton for their behaviour in regards to releasing players to the Irish squad in particular Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy. Asked if his comments will have a distraction on the team, O’Neill said,
“Every single time that you mention Roy, there either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight, I’m delighted to have him. He has been terrific, really terrific. He has been great around the lads, he has been everything I wanted him to be.”
“There are some things that materialise, that aren’t of his doing to begin with. He has a mind of his own, He can say what he wants. Unless, it is absolutely and utterly in contradiction in what I’m saying to you then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time.”
Speaking about Keane’s comments regarding the club, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, speaking to Sky Sports, said “I am a big fan of Roy Keane but he does say some stupid things. That is just totally, totally unfair. We absolutely love our players going on international duty. We would never, ever get in that way of that. Roberto Martinez will be as shocked as everyone at Everton Football Club.”
When made aware of Kenwright’s comments, and asked if he will speak to the Everton manager, O’Neill responded, “I think that I will talk [talk to him]. It is not my job to read the newspapers every single morning. Honestly, I have other things at this minute to do. I’m not saying they are more important but they are issues I have to address. So, I might get a chance to go down there and find out exactly what was said on both sides and then I will take a view.”
The manager was also asked about comments made by Roy Keane about Jack Grealish and his father over the young Aston Villa winger’s indecision to choose between the Republic of Ireland and England. Speaking to the media yesterday, Keane said, “I don’t ask Jack anymore. Sometimes it’s respect, you don’t want to pester people but, unfortunately, a lot would be coming from Jack’s dad. Knowing his dad, we could be waiting a bloody long while.”
Speaking about Keane’s comments, the manager said, “I have spoken to Jack and his father some time ago. They were not in any great hurry at that particular time. I left it entirely up to them. If Jack pulls out of the U-21’s and wants to concentrate on his club football, good luck to him. I understand Roy is not going to be running around there asking Jack’s father every single day has he made his mind up, let them decide themselves.”
Pushed on the topic and asked if the sentiment of the message was not pleasant, there was an awkward silence in the room as O’Neill felt he did not need to add to what he had already said.
Christie & McGoldrick Set For Irish Debuts
In terms of Tuesday’s game, O’Neill confirmed that Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson will miss out, with both returning to their clubs. Gibson is out due to a slight knee injury. Keane has returned to LA Galaxy to prepare for their MLS Western Conference Championship game this weekend.
Newcomers to the squad, Cyrus Christie and David McGoldrick will start the game according to the manager. Asked about whether or not it was a relief to have a natural right back in the shape of Christie in the squad, O’Neill commented,
“Yeah, very much so. That’s something we are looking at obviously. Of course, there is young [Matt] Doherty at Wolves and [Brian] Lenihan as well who has just gone out on loan. I have seen a lot of Cyrus play and I think that he has shown a real keenness to come and join us, which is good. I think he is looking forward to it and at least, it is a natural position for him rather than having to make do with David [Meyler] at full back.”
Tuesday’s game will undoubtedly be a great test for an Irish squad that is low on morale after the agonising defeat to Scotland. However, it will be interesting to see if players like Christie and McGoldrick can take their opportunity to start with both hands and stake a claim for the next qualifier against Poland in March.
O’Neill believes it will be a good test for a number of players that didn’t feature on Friday night’s defeat. A win and a good performance against the American’s, even if it is only a friendly, will be a small boost ahead of the crunch match against the Poles next year.
Conor McManus, Pundit Arena.