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Martin O'Neill labels Ronald Koeman a 'master tactician of the blame game' in stunning riposte

The Irish boss has issued an official statement to hit back at Everton coach’s latest criticism.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND manager Martin O’Neill has described his Everton counterpart Ronald Koeman as a ‘master tactician of the blame game’ as the ill-feeling between the pair shows no signs of calming.

Earlier on Friday, the Toffees boss heavily criticised O’Neill’s handling of James McCarthy after the midfielder suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury while on international duty. The 26-year-old was set to start last Friday’s World Cup qualifier with Wales but picked up the knock in the warm-up and will now miss his club’s weekend derby clash with Liverpool.

At his weekly press-conference, Koeman read a pre-prepared statement, condemning O’Neill for ‘not protecting the player’.

“We advised extreme caution. He was not fit to play”, Koeman said.

“I am not surprised but I am disappointed”, he added.

Everton v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League - Goodison Park Source: Martin Rickett

Now, O’Neill has issued an official statement hitting back at Koeman’s assertions, though he refuses to mention the Dutchman’s name.

Regarding any perceived issues with McCarthy’s fitness, O’Neill points the finger of blame firmly at the Merseyside club.

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“Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy”, O’Neill’s statement reads.

“Perhaps a review of Everton’s pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.

James had a magnificent tournament for the Republic of Ireland last summer during UEFA EURO 2016, playing his last game in very late June. He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?It should be added that James last played for his country on the October 9, 2016 – almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton’s supervision.

James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation.

Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better”.

Everton boss later responded to O’Neill’s statement on Twitter, pointing out that McCarthy began his pre-season “three and a half weeks after Ireland were knocked out of the Euros”.

This is not the first time both managers have immersed themselves in a war-of-words over McCarthy.

Last October, Koeman said O’Neill was ‘killing the player’ and was ‘massively overloading’ McCarthy by starting him in successive World Cup qualifiers despite not having played for Everton since August due to a groin injury.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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