Ireland’s Harry Arter sticks to his guns after Denmark return

Cardiff City midfielder maintains decision to pull out of Wales clash was the right one

Harry Arter clears Simon Kjaer’s header off the line during Ireland’s goalless draw with Denmark. Photograph: Oisin Kenity/Inpho

Back in the middle of the unpleasantness, Harry Arter had no guarantee there'd be nights like this anymore. Lucky him, says you. But on an evening that will be little remembered by anyone for any length of time, his return to the Ireland fold was one of the brighter spots.

Inasmuch as the game had a pivotal moment, his clearance off the line from Simon Kjaer’s header just short of the hour mark was probably it. For the remaining half-hour, Ireland looked the team marginally more likely to burgle a winner. Settling back into an Ireland shirt after everything was one thing, affecting the game on top of that entitled him to imagine brighter days lay ahead.

“I hope so,” Arter said afterwards. “I felt I was involved in a big moment, obviously saving the ball off the line, which I was happy with. It was a real defensive performance and the job I got asked to do, I felt I did it as well as I could have.

“I felt I could have done probably more to get on the ball, then when I had the ball I could have used it a little bit better. But off the ball I was happy and we got a clean sheet, so there are a lot of positives to take.”


This was Arter's first time talking to the press since his decision to absent himself from the squad after the now infamous incident with Roy Keane during the summer. Generally these post-match player-press interactions in mixed zones last no more than three minutes, four if the lad has just scored the winner. Arter was clearly in the mood to chat though - by the time we clicked off the tapes, he'd put in just north of 10 minutes.

The thrust of it was that the whole thing is done and dusted now and that he’s happy to be back. He and Keane spoke on the phone to straighten things out. There was no apology offered and no apology sought. They have a professional relationship and that’s enough for everyone concerned.

“The lads have all backed me for what I have done,” Arter said. “I get on really well with all the lads there has been no problem with any of my teammates and to be brutally honest I have never had a problem with anyone in football. All my teammates at Bournemouth, Cardiff and Ireland will all say they have never had a problem with me.

Harry Arter is shown a yellow card after eight minutes for a late challenge on Denmark’s Martin Braithwaite. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“The manager has had his say on it. Myself, I didn’t say anything at the time and up until now I still won’t say anything. All I know is that when it comes to football and playing, that’s all I want to do. Criticism is part and parcel in football. I have never had a problem with being criticised in the past and I never will have going forward. I’ve been at Bournemouth for eight years and I can assure you that I’ve been criticised within them eight years and clearly it’s never been a problem and never will be.”

The row with Keane was the sole reason for pulling out of the squad. He did it reluctantly but deliberately. He watched the Wales game on television, annoyed at not being involved but knowing it was the right thing for him that week.

“There’s no denying it. I wouldn’t say hurt I just felt that the best thing to do at the time was to stay away. There’s no point beating around the bush and making out it was for any other reason. At the time I felt the best thing for myself and for my teammates as well was me not being part of the group. We’ve patched it up now and all I know is I am comfortable to come back here and try and play as well as I can. I’ve never not wanted to come away. I’ve never wanted to miss games through injury, that’s not in my make-up to do that.

“I get on well with all the lads and that’s the truth. I think the lads understood what happened and they are professional enough, they need to understand that everyone is different in football, everyone has different opinions in certain circumstances. That’s just the way life is, people view things differently.

“I wouldn’t say the lads have treated me any different since I’ve been back. I’ve always felt welcome in the group since my first trip and obviously there are some new lads in the squad now, I feel like I’ve got more experience now to try to help the other new lads who have come in. I feel I am the sort of character that gets on with everyone and I have never really fallen out with anyone in my life, to be honest with you.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times