TONY CASCARINO has launched a withering attack on Roy Keane, lashing him as the last person who can condemn players for being unprofessional at major tournaments.
The former Ireland striker claimed today that he and the ex-Manchester United captain regularly went drinking at major tournaments -- unlike this group of players.
And he said that Keane has undermined the Ireland team in an unfair way, and he "has to be careful who he is picking on".
Cascarino's defence of the Ireland players follows hot on the heels of an astonishing attack on Keane by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who derided Keane's glaring failures as a coach.
Trap said: "He has to think of what he won as a coach, for f***'s sake."
Now Cascarino has lashed the former Ireland captain for questioning the squad's professionalism and pride, following two dreadful performances against Croatia and Spain.
"He's undermined a fine group of players -- and for what?" said Cas.
"Roy just tears into them in a totally unfair way and questions their professional pride.
"We're talking abut about top-class pros here. You know that they worked really hard.
"It's far from a jolly-up. These players are not going on the lash, unlike the team myself and Roy played in."
Cas added that Keane's criticisms of fans was totally inappropriate too.
"Times are tough now and this tournament was something to look forward to," he said.
"What's wrong with the fans enjoying it, even if things haven't gone as well as they like on the pitch?"
Trapattoni has had enough of Keane too with an extraordinary expletive laden rant against the former Irish captain.
Trapattoni and Keane have been in a nasty public dispute since Keane criticised the Irish team's performance against Spain and the 'win, lose, we're on the booze' mentality of the fans.
Trapattoni hit back at Keane by muttering in Italian off-microphone during his pre-match press conference, "Deve pensare a quel che sta facendo lui come allenatore, cazzo!"
This translates as: "He has to think about what he has done as a coach, for f***'s sake."
"He has been a great player and had great success. I don't know if he achieved the same results as coach or manager," said Trapattoni.
"I can ask him why, why why? I think for intelligent man, I cannot understand it."
For his part Keane responded from his pundit's seat on ITV, "I'm surprised because I think the reaction is over the top.
"I never criticised the manager. I said the players need to change their mentality and the supporters. I understand he's going to come out and defend his players but to come out with all that nonsense about what I've done as a manager?
"I did okay at Sunderland. Okay, it didn't work out at Ipswich, I'm still quite young, hopefully there's a chance I'll get back into get back into management.
"Just because he's had major success doesn't mean he shouldn't be criticised. If Brian Kerr or Steve Staunton were manager of Ireland and their team put on those performances, they would be heavily criticised -- but for some reason Trapattoni doesn't feel he needs to be criticised."