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Sunday 17 December 2017

Martin O'Neill: Roy Keane fuss is hype

Upbeat Irish boss shrugs aside latest lurid Keane headlines to back his No 2

Martin O'Neill
Martin O'Neill

HOW many molehills does it take to make a mountain? After Martin O'Neill's total backing for international sidekick Roy Keane, we are left with a question better suited to a Confucian philosopher than a football manager.

You see O'Neill is not fussed about Keane and all the noise around him. At least that's what he said before and that's what he said again yesterday.

He believes that when you strip away the wild headlines and get to the substance of the man, most of the controversy surrounding Keane amounts to a small heap of dirt left behind by a small burrowing mammal.

The problem is, there are so many little piles of dirt and when you heap them all together, they begin to look like a small hill if not actually an Alp.

But short of something serious, an issue which would impinge directly on his ability to be the Ireland No. 2, O'Neill has no problem with his assistant even if his first response to the inevitable question about Keane said something slightly different.

"I can't say it doesn't bother me," O'Neill said at the announcement of a new sponsorship link-up between Spar and the FAI

"Of course it might be a concern. I have spoken to Roy about it. The phrase mountain out of a molehill comes to mind. I am prepared to listen to what Roy has said about the incident. When the full information comes out, I think we will see how the story has been exaggerated.

DISTRACTION

"I have not found it a distraction and I don't find the publicity surrounding Roy is a distraction. If Roy walked to the shop, people will be interested. They would wonder what he has bought? How come he has opted for bananas rather than apples?

"I genuinely don't have a problem with the news that came out on Friday. As long as he is good for Ireland, which he has been, then I am very happy.

"If you ask the players about his contribution, they will say he has been excellent. Like, anything else, if something gets out of hand, then that will be different. But this is a mountain out of a molehill.

"And do you know what? I am sure there will be more incidents. Probably by next weekend.

"I don't mind this, I really don't mind this. I can handle it and I don't think they're a distraction. If it wasn't this (Keane) it would be something else.

"I'm not so sure Séamus Coleman is concerned this morning whether Roy has had some sort of altercation in Manchester. I don't think he's too worried by that. I think if you asked Séamus he would say his contribution to us has been positive."

O'Neill also had to fend off some criticism of his own demeanour and words during a BBC radio show last week. In the interview, O'Neill bemoaned the amount of time he gets to work with his players and underlined that this part of his life was 'very strange'.

Perhaps sensing something in his mood, BBC anchor Garry Richardson tried to prise loose some admission that O'Neill would prefer to be involved in the bump and grind of a Premier League season.

Let's be honest, it should be no surprise if a Premier League club chairman lifted the phone and called O'Neill tomorrow.

Such is football and O'Neill was being entirely reasonable when suggested that no sensible manager would want to create extra pressure by making long term plans for a job with Ireland.

"I'm not downbeat, I'm full of enthusiasm. It would be great if we could qualify," he said before explaining where he finds satisfaction as a part-time boss.

"There are little things, like generally trying to improve the squad. Finding players like (Cyrus) Christie and (David) McGoldrick and not just say you threw them in to make up the numbers, I actually think they can play for us and not let us down.

"There the things off the field, I did a function for Spar a few months ago and on the back of that, they've come on board.

PRESSURE

"I don't see other managers putting themselves under that sort of pressure. When managers lose one or two games and start talking about long term projects. Maybe I should say that and say I'm going to be here for 40 years.

"I want us to try to qualify if we can. It's difficult, we're in a tough group but that makes it exciting.

"We can win and I'll do everything in my power to do so.

Downbeat? Far from it. Absolutely and completely the opposite."

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