ROY Keane was involved in a row with journalists after being asked if he was becoming a distraction from the Republic of Ireland cause.
Keane, Martin O’Neill’s assistant, spoke to the media at the team hotel in Portmarnock on Sunday morning and initially played a straight bat to questions about an incident in which he was allegedly involved at the same venue in the run-up to Friday night’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland.
However, when the daily print journalists got their chance, the mood changed.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Having been asked about the publicity surrounding Celtic’s approach for him at the start of the season, his recently-updated biography and the hotel incident, Keane replied: “You think I’ve got to justify all that to you? And you all sit there and think I’ve got to answer everything.
“Who the hell do you think you are? I’ve got to answer to you? I answer to the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) and Martin, and if we don’t get the results, I’ll be gone and you won’t lose a minute’s sleep, so don’t worry about distractions.
“You are the ones who write about distractions.”
O’Neill had admitted in his pre-match press conference at Celtic Park that the incident at the team hotel, when the FAI called the Gardai at Keane’s request, had been a minor distraction.
No arrest nor complaint was made, but when it was put to Keane that it had been a distraction because people were talking about it, he replied: “Talking about what? Talking about something you don’t have a clue about. And everyone writing lies, the usual nonsense, ‘this happened’ and ‘that happened’.”
Those exchanges came after Keane had taken Everton boss Roberto Martinez to task over his handling of injuries to key Ireland players Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, who both missed last month’s qualifiers with McCarthy also sitting out this time around after reporting with a hamstring problem.
Keane told the Daily Mail: “I worry that he [McCarthy] is under lots of pressure, particularly from Everton’s point of view, because every time there is an international match it does seem to be Seamus and James under lots of pressure. They’re turning up or they mightn’t turn up, or they’re struggling.
“You always get the impression from Everton that Seamus and James are both barely able to walk, that type of thing. So when they actually turn up and they are walking through the reception, ‘Praise the Lord, it’s a miracle’.”
As a result, Keane wants Martinez and O’Neill to meet.
Everton have Europa League commitments this season and Keane knows of the difficulties of staying fresh from his own career, but he hopes Martinez understands the importance of international football.
He said: “There has to be, I think, some sort of sit-down conversation and say,’listen, I think Martin’s been more than good enough here, particularly the friendlies, but these are big qualifying matches now’.
“Roberto Martinez has to look after his club and he is probably thinking they have European games. Roberto, I don’t think, has ever played senior level at international level and maybe he doesn’t appreciate how big it is for us and how big the games are for us.
“We talk about the manager here and the manager there, but there’s a player in between all that - and I can speak from experience, he’s under lots of pressure too. There is a guarantee that when the player turns up [for internationals] they are getting phone calls left, right and centre from their 15 physios at the club.
“You’re also hoping the player can make the decision and say, ‘I’ll give it a go’ or whatever it might be.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS