King handles questions over media abuse with great dignity

Dubliner denies rumour he had broken Eamon Dunphy’s nose many years ago

Noel King gave a somewhat fraught interview to RTE Sport's Tony O' Donoghue after last night's game against Kazakhstan.


Eamon Dunphy will be back in Lansdowne Road this morning overseeing a training session for politicians aiming to get into some sort of shape before an ESB-sponsored charity match against journalists at the stadium next Friday night.

The collective performance, one suspects, would likely provide Noel King with plenty of ammunition to abuse their manager should he choose to pop along and shout from the stands.

The Irish under-21 coach, if that’s what he is again, is sure to give it a miss but he admitted yesterday that there is “history” between the pair going back some way. He declined to get into specifics in Abbotstown yesterday, where he insisted that he was not interested in perpetuating the debate over the RTÉ panel’s remarkably harsh criticism of his handling of Ireland’s two senior games during the last few days.

King denied a rumour that there had been an altercation many years ago that ended in him breaking the former Millwall player’s nose, pointing to his own somewhat battered one with a smile and joking: “No, I didn’t break his nose; not at all. He ran away too quick. I couldn’t catch him.”

Historical issues
Pressed on whether he is aware of historical issues between the pair that might have fuelled the particularly venomous comments, which seemed all the more over the top because the 57-year-old is essentially filling in at the behest of his employers having been told he is not in the running for the appointment long term, King grinned and replied: “There is loads I’m aware of, but that’s life. I’ve moved on from it. I’d have said the second I’d have a problem but I don’t have a problem. I really don’t.”

King, having had a night to sleep on it (an opportunity he may well have passed up as it happens) handled persistent questioning about the abuse with considerable dignity, again insisting that he preferred to talk about football itself but relenting when he was repeatedly hauled back to the going over he’d received from pundits who had spent most of the Trapattoni years harping on about how the team needed a coach with more of a connection to and feeling for the Irish game.

King accepted that neither the players’ performances nor his own had been perfect but he contended that they had, the results, been reasonable and suggested that a more respectful debate regarding the team might benefit the game here at all levels.

‘Debate football’
“Look, I’ll debate football with anybody,” he said. “I do it on a regular basis in a park, on the side of a pitch, at a party. I did it last night in my home, in a pub. But it (the criticism by Dunphy and his fellow panellists) doesn’t bother me. I’m not interested in it.”

Pushed on whether he had over-reacted during a post-match interview with Tony O’Donoghue, he acknowledged: “I will argue with anybody (and) I will lose the plot. I have lost the plot on the pitch and lost it off it.

“But that’s football, it’s a passionate game. And the next minute or the next second after I lose it, it comes back and we are alright.”

At this point King and O’Donoghue went through the formalities of confirming for those present that they were indeed “alright”.

“I work in the Education Department of the FAI, on the Pro-Licence,” he resumed. “and we would give debates, have discussions, talk about media. What I learned from you guys is that it is easier in a classroom than it is in reality.

“If we can get the supporters behind the national team in every way, though, we’ll have a far better, healthier game. A game that the children want to play in, that people aspire to manage and coach in . . . rather than an arena of abuse.”