Martin O’Neill downplays leaked details of rifts in Ireland camp
Irish defender heard detailing spats between Roy Keane, Harry Arter and Jon Walters
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during training ahead of the friendly match against Poland in Wroclaw. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Martin O’Neill says that he takes total responsibility for the criticism levelled at players by his assistant, Roy Keane, and for the resulting fall-out.
However, he says the account provided by Stephen Ward of the altercations in May and June between the Corkman, Jon Walters and Harry Arter in a WhatsApp message which was widely circulated on the web on Monday differs from the version provided directly to him.
Asked to provide an account of those differences or to say how significant they were, he declined to, partly laughing the matter off slightly with the suggestion that: “I had a conversation (with Keane) before Coronation Street, it was really good but I can’t, I don’t think I’m in a position, I don’t want to be. But it doesn’t tally.”
O’Neill, who will be without his captain Seamus Coleman for the game in Poland after the Everton defender was ruled out with a foot injury, made the point that Ward – who he said he had spoken to over the course of the day – was not in the squad at the time and so had to be providing a second hand account of what had transpired.
He also pointed once again to the fact that Walters had joined up with the squad and reiterated his suggestion that Arter’s decision not to come into the squad had been influenced by other factors and not just the argument with the former Manchester United midfielder.
“First of all,” he said, “Stephen wasn’t there; he’s just picking up on things, something that we talked about at the beginning of the week. Probably not anything more to really report. I think there are differences over what was said (but there was) a confrontation with Jon and a confrontation with Harry.
“Jon is fine, absolutely fine. Harry perhaps not so fine. But I said to you before, you’d have to ask if that is the complete reason why Harry is not participating in these games this time. But I think you probably know that anyway because Harry has let it known to a few people anyway, the reasons he has decided not to come.
“If you’re asking about Roy’s criticism of players,” he continued, “let me tell you, this is my responsibility, totally my responsibility, absolutely and utterly, as is every single kick players make, every save that is made, every corner that is conceded, every goal that is scored… they are all is my responsibility.
“So I’ll take full responsibility for what has happened there in this camp. At the end of it all, I don’t want to make too fine a point, I’m actually the manager. I’ve had in my time as a club manager, I’ve have chosen two brilliant, brilliant assistant managers, two characters, two world class players: John Robertson and the young man himself, Roy Keane. They’re different but I’ve chosen them and at the end of it all, none of them have ever let me down.
“John Robertson criticised players, Roy has a different way. We know these things but I take the responsibility for it at the end of the day because that’s my job. Whatever comes and goes, that’s it,
“If there is a still a difference over what was said, I accept that at this minute but I wasn’t there myself and Stephen certainly wasn’t. Whether he’s picking up (his account) from other conversations, I’m not sure. I think some of you will have to speak to Harry about it and I think some of you do.”