Martin O’Neill: Harry Arter absence linked to Roy Keane spat
Ireland boss ‘doesn’t agree’ with midfielder’s decision but hasn’t ruled out future recall
Martin O’Neill with fitness coach Dan Horan during Ireland training on Monday. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Martin O’Neill has confirmed that the training ground row Harry Arter had with Roy Keane before the summer is a factor in the midfielder’s decison not to make himself available for Thursday’s Nations League game against Wales or the friendly in Poland that follows it, but claims that the player is also anxious to concentrate on getting his club career back on track after it had “stalled” last season.
The Republic of Ireland manager said that he has not ruled out the prospect of Arter returning to the fold at some stage but admitted that he does not agree with the Cardiff City midfielder’s decision not to answer a call up for these games.
“Harry is not coming,” he confirmed after the Irish squad trained at Abbotstwon on Monday morning. “He is concentrating on his club football at this minute. I think he just wants to get back on track on the club front. His club appearances have been few and far between just recently, in the last six, seven, eight months and he wants to concentrate on that.”
Pushed on whether the altercation with Keane had been a factor, he admitted: “That might be part of the reason; might well be. I wouldn’t deny that that’s the case. But he has a number of things to consider.
“He has had a fresh start at Cardiff now. Bournemouth were happy enough for him to go out on loan so it’s a start for him again so there are a number of reasons but I wouldn’t deny that that would be one of them.”
Asked if he might return during O’Neill’s time in charge as manager, O’Neill suggested he would certainly be open to having him back. “I don’t see why not,” he said before suggesting that, “I think he has to clear his mind. He is a very decent footballer. He had signed a long term deal at Bournemouth and thought things were going to happen. I think he signed a four-year deal last year and I think has three years to go.
“He was extremely well thought of over the last couple of years but obviously things have stalled at club level for whatever reason and he wants to put that right. But if he clears his mind, he is happy enough to come back and all other issues have been resolved then I don’t see any reason why he should not come back in the future.
“He is looking to get back to proper fitness, though. This is the first time he has had a couple of games on the trot so that’s good news for him and he has stayed injury free for a couple of weeks which is obviously a good boost, so hopefully next time around he will be in really good shape both physically and mentally. . .”
In the meantime, he said, “I’ve abided by Harry’s decision. I’ve respected it. I don’t necessarily agree it but I’ve respected it.
“I know it’s the old cliché but these things happen. I’ve been here almost five years now and I’ve had one or two scrapes with players myself, players who are bigger and stronger with me and looked for a bit of support from my backroom team when it wasn’t forthcoming but I think in my time in charge I’ve managed to generate a fairly vibrant environment. The majority of the players want to play for the team, want to play for each other and naturally want to play for themselves. But there are exceptions.”
Asked about the other obvious one just now, Declan Rice, he dismissed the suggestion that his absence too is linked to the training ground row involving Jon Walters and Arter back at the start of the summer.
“No,” he said. “There is not an ounce of truth in that.”
Arter aside, Shane Long has been ruled out of the two games with the striker staying at Southampton in order to receive treatment for the foot/toe injury he picked up while playing for his club over the weekend while David Meyler (knee) and Shane Duffy (groin) sat out the squad’s first training session of the week but are both expected to be fit enough to feature in Thursday’s game.
Greg Cunningham and Darragh Lenihan are amongst the players to have missed the cut but with Kieran O’Hara due to join up with the Under-21s for their qualifiers against Kosovo and Germany, Sean McDermott has survived it and is expected to link up with the seniors ahead of training tomorrow - both he and Jon Walters missed Monday morning’s session.
Preston’s Callum Robinson did take part on Monday and is available for the Wales game after having secured his Irish passport over the summer.
Revised Ireland squad: Doyle (Hearts), McDermott (Kristiansund), Randolph (Middlesbrough); Coleman (Everton), Christie (Fulham), Doherty (Wolves), Duffy (Brighton), Keogh (Derby County), Clark (Newcastle United), Long and Ward (Burnley), Egan and Stevens (Sheffield United); Judge (Brentford), Hendrick (Burnley), Hourihane (Aston Villa), Browne (Preston), Williams (Millwall), Meyler (Reading), Horgan (Hibernian), O’Dowda (Bristol City), McClean (Stoke City); Walters (Ipswich Town), Burke and Robinson (Preston), O’Brien (Millwall).