Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill issues Twitter warning to James McClean

Pole position: the Republic's James McClean (right) goes through a drill with team-mate Alex Pearce
Pole position: the Republic's James McClean (right) goes through a drill with team-mate Alex Pearce

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill has issued a fresh warning to his players over their use of social media after James McClean became embroiled in yet another Twitter row.

The former Derry City winger sent a derogatory tweet about the Belfast Telegraph over the weekend which was later deleted.

McClean has landed himself in hot water with his use of Twitter on several occasions, prompting former club Sunderland, who were managed by O'Neill at the time, to twice ban him from using the social networking site.

His fellow Ulsterman is now in charge of the Republic and was already considering imposing new rules before the latest incident.

Speaking in Poznan, where the Republic play Poland tonight, O'Neill said: "I wasn't overly pleased.

"James seems to enjoy the Twittering and his performance merited one or two tweets from other people saying how he had done, rather than James getting embroiled again.

"It all leads to the whole thing again about the tweeting. I think even before I arrived here, there was a matchday ban on tweeting – in fact, it might even have been a matchday minus-one or plus-one, as the case may be, or even a two-day ban.

"I am just experiencing these things again, so let me have a look. I don't want to be a guru over this social media and players. I think there just has to be a bit of responsibility.

"Sometimes I think the players don't realise, even after all this time – maybe they do, maybe that's my view – they might not realise that this is a public media and anything they say is just picked up."

O'Neill was asked if he had spoken to McClean about the matter, and while he acknowledged that he had, he defended the player to a degree.

He said: "I have reminded James. But remember, it's a fairly lengthy time since I last mentioned it to him. There has been a lot of tweeting gone under the bridge since then."

Ironically, the Wigan midfielder turned in one of his better performances for the Republic in Friday's 3-0 friendly victory over Latvia to earn headlines for all the right reasons.

However, O'Neill, who plans to make changes for the clash with the Poles, said the Twitter row would play no part in his selection.

He said: "If I am going to leave players out because they have tweeted, then I am going to be in serious trouble down the line. That's kind of a semi-joke.

"If James doesn't start, it won't be anything to do with tweeting."

O'Neill revealed that striker Robbie Keane will not start tonight after the LA Galaxy star admitted he may need surgery to cure an Achilles problem.

The 33-year-old Republic skipper delayed a visit to a specialist to make the trip to Poland, however, with his season in the United States over he will keep an appointment next week, when he will discover whether an operation is required.

Asked if he may need surgery, Keane said: "It is kind of looking like that but I won't know for definite until Monday.

"But there is definitely something that will have to be done."

Keane attended the pre-match Press conference at the INEA Stadium last night with O'Neill.

O'Neill said: "Robbie won't start on Tuesday night. He's had an Achilles problem that's been chronic now for a while.

"It's something that, now that he's going to get a little bit of a break with LA, he's going to get sorted out.

"My doctor said to me that if I wasn't going to start him in the game that perhaps he might stay (behind) and he might be able to get an appointment a week earlier – and a week, you know, for the amount of time that he's off, might have been important.

"I gave that some consideration, but deep down, I wanted Robbie to come and the moment he said 'I'm coming,' I think that spoke volumes for him, it really did.

"I was really pleased that even if he had an opportunity to get something sorted out on Wednesday of this week, he was prepared to leave it go to travel.

"As captain of the side, it's great for him and from my point of view, it's great to hear."

Keane admitted there was never any chance of him not making the trip despite what could lie ahead.

He said: "I wanted to come and always want to be involved. I have time off after – it is not like I have a game on Saturday after this week.

"I will see the specialist and hopefully get it all sorted out."

O'Neill is yet to select a replacement captain – he hinted defender John O'Shea might get the nod if he starts – and will make changes as he attempts to run the rule over as many of his squad members as possible.

Keane and O'Shea, of course, were part of the squad which played two games at the stadium during their ill-fated Euro 2012 campaign, losing 3-1 to Croatia and 2-0 to Italy either side of a 4-0 trouncing by Spain in Gdansk.

Those memories remain unpleasant for the men who experienced them, and Keane admitted to a sense of deja vu.

He said: "When I walked in through that door there, I just remember this room.

"Obviously, they are not great memories, but that's gone now.

"It's going to be, as the manager said, a different test from Latvia, but it's a game that certainly the players are well up for and looking forward to."

If Keane remains the Republic's talisman and most potent threat, that dual role for Poland has been assumed by Borussia Dortmund's in-demand frontman Robert Lewandowski.

The Dubliner said: "He is obviously a fantastic player and I think over the last few years, he has come on even better.

"It goes to show how well he has done with the interest he is creating around the world of football, and the big teams seem to be looking at him."

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