Tuesday 16 January 2018

'I am certainly not smug' insists defiant Ireland manager

Ireland midfielder Aiden McGeady has accepted Roy Keane’s apology for comments made about him after last week’s defeat to Belarus. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland midfielder Aiden McGeady has accepted Roy Keane’s apology for comments made about him after last week’s defeat to Belarus. Photo: Sportsfile

Martin O'Neill wasted no effort in trying to put right the mistake he made in the Cork Opera House last week and issued a heartfelt apology to any who was offended.

"I did a thing down there at the Opera House. Obviously I apologise now for the comment. It was inappropriate and I might turn around and say crass now at the end of the day. A genuine apology if it has upset people," he said.

"I wanted to genuinely apologise.

"Almost the minute I said it, I realised I shouldn't have said it," he added.

"Well I played with one, I played with Justin Fashanu. I played with him at Norwich and at the end of my time at Notts County.

"So as far as I'm concerned, if he was scoring a goal to win us a game I'd be delighted. So I've genuinely no problem with it."

But his mood turned to defiance when he defended his record as Ireland boss.

"I don't feel as if I have ever been smug in my life. I don't feel that, I never felt that. I never felt a smugness here either, even when we qualified, I never felt smug. I say vindication, never smug," said O'Neill.

"And, remarkably, when I took this job I turned down three other offers at club level.

"So I was not on my uppers believe it or not. I took the job because I wanted to do it, I felt it was an honour to do it and following some very, very good people, very good people who have done the job.

"Jack Charlton starting it, it was really great, Mick McCarthy doing very well, Trapattoni. So I felt as if an honour coming here to do this job.

"And I still feel the same way, absolutely. So I am certainly not smug. I have been described as a number of things in my life, not all complimentary, I agree with you but smugness is not something I do."

O'Neill has taken full responsibility for Roy Keane's outburst in Cork but suggested that sometimes, those on the wrong end of criticism should "take it on the chin".

Revealing that Keane apologised to Aiden McGeady for singling him out for particularly harsh treatment after the 2-1 defeat by Belarus at Turner's Cross, he underlined the fact that ultimately, the manager must take the hit.

"The only thing I'll say about it is this: you do ask for Roy to come and speak to you. I'm happy with that," said O'Neill. "When he does, and I say 'you go and do the press' then it's my responsibility. I said the same to John Robertson, not that he wanted to do the press much. So it's my responsibility.

"People have to take a bit of criticism on the chin too and Aiden is old enough to take it but I think he (Aiden) appreciated the apology from Roy.

"Roy spoke - he felt he was over the top - he has apologised to the players. Some are echoing what James McClean has said, that it bucks us up a bit.

"Roy has been excellent throughout this tournament. As regarding his position and influence here, he has been terrific."

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