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Martin O'Neill in sexism storm after quip only pretty WAGs welcome at Euros

By Cate McCurry

Published 25/03/2016

Martin O’Neill talks to the media yesterday
Martin O’Neill talks to the media yesterday

Republic of Ireland football boss Martin O'Neill has been criticised for making "sexist" comments after suggesting "ugly" partners of players would not be welcome at their Euro 2016 hotel.

Speaking ahead of his side's warm-up match with Switzerland, the manager joked players' wives and girlfriends could only attend if they were "really attractive".

The Kilrea man said: "It depends on how good-looking the girls are. If they're really attractive, they're very, very welcome. The uglier ones I'm afraid not."

The National Women's Council of Ireland criticised the remarks. "There is no place for sexist comments of this nature in Irish football, particularly at this level," director Orla O'Connor said.

"Interest and participation in soccer among girls and young women is growing in Ireland, and the Euros should be used as an opportunity to increase these participation levels, not for comments such as these."

Wales boss Chris Coleman revealed earlier this week that his players' wives and girlfriends would be banned from the squad's base in France during the tournament in an attempt to remove all possible distractions.

But Ireland number two Roy Keane suggested on Tuesday that the Republic would adopt a more relaxed approach.

"Listen, we're working with the senior team and we treat them like men, like adults," he told the Press. "If there are opportunities for the players to see their families, I think that will be open to the players - as long as it's not silly and three or four days before the game.

"There is a time and a place for everything. If we need to remind anyone, we're going over there to try and do well in the tournament."

Keane also said that his family did not want to be anywhere near him when he was preparing for big games. And asked about that, O'Neill added: "Oh, I'm quite sure that's absolutely true."

Central defender John O'Shea, who sat alongside O'Neill during the press conference at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, said his wife and family would be travelling to France to support him, but that their presence would not deflect him from his mission.

"My wife and two kids will be coming over to support - if I'm selected in the final squad - but it's one of those things," he added. "I'm experienced enough now to be focusing on the job at hand, which is getting out of the group."

The FAI did not offer a comment when asked for one.

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