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O'Neill: 'Roy Keane has never let me down. I'll take responsibility, because that's my job'

The Ireland boss has stood by his assistant and reaffirmed that morale in the Irish camp was not low.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill.

MARTIN O’NEILL has defended Roy Keane in the wake of reports that the Ireland assistant had heated confrontations with both Jon Walters and Harry Arter before Ireland’s friendly against France back in May.

On Monday morning, a voice message surfaced on social media detailing Keane’s fall-outs with Walters and Arter prior to the summer friendly against France.

Arter has recently made himself unavailable for selection, with O’Neill refusing to deny that the altercation could have played a part in his decision. 

The Ireland boss, however, said that Keane had been a reliable assistant during the pair’s tenure over the last five years since taking over in 2013.

“In my time as a club manager, I’ve chosen two brilliant, brilliant assistant managers — John Robertson and the young man himself Roy Keane,” said O’Neill.

Martin O'Neill O'Neill was speaking at a press conference on Monday before tomorrow's friendly with Poland in Wrocław. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I’ve chosen them particularly and, at the end of it all, none of them have ever let me down. I’ll take the responsibility for it at the end of the day, because that’s my job.

“So whatever comes or goes, that’s it. If there’s still a difference over what was said, I accept that now at this minute.”

The manager admitted that Ireland were going through a difficult period, with Thursday’s 4-1 Nations League defeat against Wales coming 10 months after hopes of qualifying for the World Cup were dashed 5-1 by Denmark in Dublin.

However, he stated that revelations of confrontations within the Irish camp were not issues his side were struggling with at the moment.

We’re going through a bit of a stodgy period,” he said speaking three days after defeat in Cardiff.

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“We’re trying to get young players through at this minute. I’ve capped innumerable players at this minute, just to try and get us prepared for this European Championship coming up.

“So in terms of issues, they are absolutely not. These two confrontations took place four months ago, they are surfacing now.”

O’Neill denied that morale within the Irish squad was being affected, stating that results at the European Championships in France two years ago and Ireland’s passage to the play-offs of the World Cup were evidence of a strong collective.

Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill Keane and O'Neill have been in charge of Ireland since 2013. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We were second best in the game [against Wales]. The minute you lose a football match — and we were well beaten — I think everything is then questioned at the end of it. But in terms of morale, I couldn’t disagree more.

I do need to emphasise this again: we could not have reached the Euros and perform in the manner in which we did, we could not have gone from fourth seeds to a World Cup play-off against Denmark, with poor morale in the camp.

“We could not have done it unless the morale was sky high. There is no question about it.”

Ireland take on Poland at the Municipal Stadium in Wrocław tomorrow evening looking to bounce back from Thursday’s sobering defeat against Ryan Giggs’ side.

Captain Seamus Coleman has been ruled out and joins a growing list of absentees which includes James McClean, Robbie Brady, Sean Maguire and Stephen Ward, Jon Walters, Alan Browne and Shane Long.

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Aaron Gallagher

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