Belfast Telegraph

I always knew Roy Keane would be tempted elsewhere: Martin O'Neill

By David Kelly

Martin O'Neill is braced for further Roy Keane 'will he go, will he stay?' sagas but has welcomed the end of the Celtic involvement for the Republic of Ireland assistant manager.

O'Neill, speaking yesterday for the first time since Keane turned down the opportunity to join Celtic as manager, opted to avoid comment on the possibility of the Corkman joining Aston Villa as No 2 to Paul Lambert.

He did, however, accept that other clubs will come calling for the services of Keane.

"I wasn't exactly sure what might happen with him and Celtic, but I was always hoping that he might stay with us but was never sure. But I'm delighted that it happened," said O'Neill.

The Republic boss was speaking after squad training at Malahide prior to their departure for the USA, where they will play Costa Rica in Philadelphia on Saturday and Portugal in New Jersey next Wednesday morning.

O'Neill's engaging manner and dry wit came to the fore in his chat with media personnel, but there was a hint of impatience in his remarks as the Keane questions kept coming. Saturday's draw with Italy and the prospects against Costa Rica and Portugal receded into the background.

In fairness, they are friendly games, and one wonders how tedious the build-up might have been if the last week wasn't dominated by the Keane story.

It all kicked off in earnest after O'Neill confirmed last Thursday that his assistant had been approached by Celtic's leading shareholder Dermot Desmond.

Now it's a Keane 'no' to Celtic, 'no' to his ITV gig as a World Cup panellist, and 'no comment' so far about the Villa situation.

Perhaps it would have helped O'Neill if Keane had taken the pitchside update yesterday, but the assistant boss contented himself with working on the training ground with the players.

The first question put to O'Neill was about his reaction to Keane staying with the Republic.

"I'm naturally very pleased. I'm delighted that he has done so. Maybe we might just get on with things now. It's obviously good news for us, for everyone concerned, I think. The players in particular are delighted and so are the rest of us," said O'Neill.

O'Neill was asked why Keane had turned down Celtic's approach.

"Well, as I said to you before, he has enjoyed it here immensely," he added.

"That obviously plays a part in his thinking. I'm quite sure there were quite a number of factors, but that was pretty important too, at this minute. He is enjoying it.

"He has just got started and hopefully that might continue."

Was he surprised Keane was able to turn down Celtic?

"Well, Celtic is a great club, it's a fantastic club. These opportunities, again, I've said this, it's just a matter of reiteration almost ad nauseam now that, in the future, he will have loads of offers as he's had in the past.

"Things like this will crop up here again with a bit of luck. I'm not saying Celtic will – but that type of job."

Keane is being strongly linked with a coaching role at Aston Villa but O'Neill was reluctant to second guess his comrade's next move.

"I think you think I'm a soothsayer, that I can just predict the future," he added.

"Actually, I wish I could predict the future, I might be in better shape than I am.

"Everything now at this minute, is on the back burner in terms of speculation, all that type of stuff. I don't really want to continue on about this until we get back from the United States."

Has all the speculation become a little bit tiresome?

"Yes, you're dead right," was the reply.

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