Belfast Telegraph

Angry Martin fires back at Koeman over McCarthy injury

By Adam McKendry

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has responded angrily to claims from Everton boss Ronald Koeman that he was failing to protect Toffees midfielder James McCarthy.

O'Neill last night released a rather sarcastic statement after Koeman stated the international manager overworked McCarthy, who came into camp with a pre-existing hamstring problem.

McCarthy was forced to pull out of last Friday's World Cup qualifier against Wales in the warm-up after aggravating the injury.

But the former Northern Ireland captain refused to take any of the blame for McCarthy's latest set-back, instead claiming that "master tactician of the blame game" Koeman should address some of his own training regimes instead.

"Once again the Everton manager, master tactician of the blame game, has struck out in his comments today, criticising both myself and James McCarthy," the statement read.

"Perhaps a review of Everton's pre-season programme might provide some enlightenment.

"James had a magnificent tournament for the Republic of Ireland last summer during Euro 2016, playing his last game in very late June.

"He then returned to Everton after a very short break, but only 11 days later, he played his first of three games, all within an eight-day period, against Real Betis, Manchester United and Espanyol. Overloading?"

Koeman had earlier claimed in his press conference ahead of today’s Merseyside derby that he felt the midfielder should not have been involved with the international side due to his injury profile.

“When asked to play he said he felt he was fit,” Koeman stated. “I spoke to him, he needs to take responsibility.

“He had only two days’ training for Ireland and broke down in the warm-up.

“In my opinion he would need at least one full week of training with the team to be declared fit.

“The assessment of the Ireland medical team was that it would be high risk for James to play. In my opinion the Ireland manager in this instance was not protecting the player.”

But O’Neill refused to accept the blame for McCarthy having to withdraw from the squad, pointing out that the midfielder hadn’t featured in an Ireland squad for five months up to last week.

“It should be added that James last played for his country on October 9, 2016 — almost half a year ago. Since that time he has been totally under Everton’s supervision,” O’Neill’s statement continued.

“James is diligent and conscientious in his professional preparation. Perhaps, in this instance, quiet introspection may serve the Everton manager and his medical staff better.”

McCarthy has only managed to play the full 90 twice this season and has been plagued with several injury issues having suffered groin and muscle problems as well as his current hamstring injury.

He has only featured on 12 occasions this season for Everton, five of those coming from the bench, with Koeman voicing his concerns over how he is used by his international manager on several occasions.

The Dutchman was incensed when McCarthy played twice for the Republic in the space of 72 hours against Georgia and Moldova back in October, despite revealing he hadn’t even taken part in recent training sessions or team meetings for his club due to an injury.

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