Belfast Telegraph

Republic's Euro glory bid boosted by new deals for Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane

By Daniel McDonnell

Ready for lift-off. With a new contract tucked in the back pocket. The Republic arrive in France today and, with a smile, Roy Keane jokes that he will already be ahead of his last major competition experience when he lands in the host country.

"I'm just glad to be making it to the tournament," he said, referring to his infamous spat with then manager Mick McCarthy.

"Usually I miss out on these things. I still have a few days to play with so I'll just be glad to be there; I'll just be cheering that I've made the first game."

The assistant manager's final media outing before departure was more about levity than brevity.

It turned out that the news of the day would be coming a couple of hours later with the announcement that Martin O'Neill, Keane and the rest of the management team would be staying around for the World Cup campaign. In that sense, the FAI had an ace up their sleeve.

Keane gave nothing away. For once, his future wasn't really discussed. The burning issue was the fact that he had cut members of the squad down last week with withering comments that posed questions about the personality he will adopt during this getaway. There will always be a Saipan segue.

But if that incident raised fears about instability, the subsequent revelation he has committed to sticking around with O'Neill - although club speculation remains inevitable - paints the picture of a happy camp.

In truth, his criticism of Aiden McGeady, Jeff Hendrick and the other players who toiled against Belarus was out of sync with the tone of his comments over the past 12 months. Ulsterman O'Neill said on Monday his No 2 went too far and Keane admitted as much without going into the details.

"If I think I've gone over the top on certain things, I will apologise," he says. "I've no problem with that.

"If you think afterwards, 'Oh well, that might have been harsh', I've done it before. I've pulled players in at Sunderland and at Ipswich. Pulling a few young players in that we had on loan from Tottenham. I was really hard on them in training and I pulled them in afterwards and I said, 'I was over the top' and they were fine.

"Sometimes you try to find different ways to motivate people. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. People on the outside might take it up the wrong way. If I feel I have crossed that line with anything then you have a word.

"My job is to motivate players, to push people and try and get them to another level. That will never change.

"I'm sick of saying it but I have been like that since I was a young player.

"There's ways of doing it. I'd like to think I get it right a lot but if there are times you think, 'Well, maybe that was a bit harsh', you hold your hand up."

Did he regret venting his frustration in public? "Do you know what?" he responds. "I'm not going to sit here and talk about things I said and regret. No. You're not therapists to me. This is to do with my own conscience.

"It's an emotional game and sometimes you say things. You're upset by a performance or a result and I have no problem criticising somebody as a group but I suppose, not that I named them but there were names thrown at me at the press conference, then you've got to … you can't be having cheap shots either. There's a big difference. And I know that as well as anybody."

He is asked if players move on quickly from these things.

"Yeah, I suppose so," he responds, before breaking into another grin. "I usually have my hands around their throats when I'm doing it so…"

This was the tone of the gathering. Keane expects that the mood around camp will change slightly when they settle into their Versailles base today.

The possibility of boredom was a theme of the day. With similar language to O'Neill, he dismissed it.

"Usually when people say they're bored, that's because they're boring," he quipped.

"We treat them like men," he shrugs.

Belfast Telegraph