France star Diarra 'insulted Irish' during Croke Park play-off
There was never going to be any shortage of motivation in the Irish camp ahead of Wednesday's last tango in Paris but a real edge has been injected by the behaviour of France's Lassana Diarra after Saturday's first leg.
The Real Madrid midfielder infuriated Keith Andrews with a comment that Giovanni Trapattoni described as insulting to 'the Irish nation' and prompted a full time shoving match that involved players from both sides, with Richard Dunne particularly enraged.
While members of the Irish camp have refused to divulge the exact nature of the insult, Andrews confirmed yesterday that the 24-year-old's remark will fire up the dressing room further ahead of the second leg. The Dubliner backed up Trapattoni's hint that Diarra was guilty of a jibe at Ireland rather than a personal attack.
“I don't want to say exactly what he said,” said the Blackburn man yesterday morning, “But he knows what he said. It was a disrespectful comment which probably typifies them to be honest.
“When the final whistle went, I was hunkered down a little. I saw him walking towards me and I thought he was going to shake my hand. And he made a remark and, to be fair, I lost my head a little bit.”
Was it, as Trapattoni suggested, an outburst that would insult Irish people?
“That's about accurate,” said Andrews, “He has made a disrespectful comment. My head went a little but thankfully I was not booked. It was typical of him and the way he was.
Andrews had considerable reason to avoid rash challenges. With a yellow card hanging over him since his competitive debut against Georgia, he was one misjudged tackle away from missing Stade de France on Wednesday. Given that the opportunity to represent his country has arrived late in his career, it would have been difficult for the 29-year-old to accept that.
“I would be lying if I said that it hadn't been playing on my mind throughout the game,” he admitted, “I tried not to let it affect my game and tried to make as many tackles as I could without pushing it too far. It's been a little bit of a tightrope and I've had to be very cautious in a lot of the games. I'm sure Wednesday will be different.
“To use the cliché, it will be a dream for me.”
In his defence, Diarra — formerly of Arsenal and Portsmouth — argued that Andrews had been kicking him a lot during the game.
“Well, I did not see a yellow card coming out in my direction,” countered the ex-Wolves man. “If I was kicking him that much I am sure I would have been booked.”