MARTIN O'Neill has circled the wagons around Roy Keane and given his No. 2 a free ticket to say what he likes, as long as it doesn't directly contradict his own position.
However, there is increasing speculation that O'Neill is rapidly tiring of his constant need to defend Keane in the face of lurid and disruptive headlines.
O'Neill didn't read any of Keane's remarks about Jack Grealish, Everton or James McCarthy before he gave his traditional pre-match interviews in advance of tonight's friendly against the USA at the Aviva.
However, he found himself defending his No 2 in the face of a strong rebuttal from Everton Chairman Bill Kenwright who rubbished Keane's suggestion that undue pressure is being placed on Irish players in advance of and during international breaks.
"He's got a mind of his own, he can say what he wants. Again, unless it's absolutely and utterly in contradiction with what I am saying to you, then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time.
"Every single time that you mention Roy, it either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight: I'm delighted to have him.
"I chose in the first place to bring him in here, he's been terrific, he's really been terrific. He has been terrific around the lads he has been great. He has been, everything that I wanted him to be."
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