Belfast Telegraph

Roy Keane: Don't worry if you're shattered we'll carry you off the pitch

By Daniel McDonnell

There is a part of Roy Keane which enjoys the introspection that comes with a comprehensive defeat. This does not come as a huge surprise. "I like that side of sport," he explained. "If you're not at your best you get punished."

It's the kind of justice that the Republic of Ireland's assistant manager endorses. Later, he said that he has been 'intrigued' by watching how members of the squad have responded to the humbling defeat to Belgium.

"We'll learn a lot about our character against Italy," he said. "This is where courage comes into it - courage as a sportsman.

"Boxing is the best one, you're in the ring one v one. Now we have lads who are representing Ireland in a huge game.

"We know there is more to come from these players, so there would be a real feeling of anti-climax if we did not get a result and felt we left something behind. You run and you run and you run and keep going until the game is over and, after the game, don't worry if you're shattered - we'll carry you off the pitch."

He can handle the mistakes. Keane is by no means a golf lover but he watched Shane Lowry's struggles towards the end of the US Open on Sunday and recognised that the best laid plans that can go awry.

It is clear, however, that the 44-year-old views the difficult exercise in Bordeaux as a limp collapse as opposed to a valiant loss. His use of vocabulary yesterday opened the window into the ingredients which he felt were missing.

Courage. Bravery. Balls. This was a full house in buzzword bingo. He was asked if players need a kick up the a*** or an arm round the shoulder. "It depends who you're talking to," he replied, with a knowing smile.

Keane didn't question the desire of the players selected for the rough afternoon at the hands of the top seeds. What they lacked, in his view, was that cold-blooded win-at-all-costs mentality which turns effort into excellence.

Early in his press conference, he took umbrage at a line of questioning about his own experiences with Italian teams by stating that he was sick of media talking about his playing career. "It's irrelevant," he said. "I retired 10 years ago."

And yet, when it came to discussing James McCarthy and Ciaran Clark's inability to cut off Belgian counter-attacks when the opportunity was there, Keane couldn't resist finishing a statement with an obvious question.

"My advice is take them out," he said. "If that's a foul, then you foul him. It's not a crime. You might get a yellow card, you might even get a red, but your team might win. Sacrifices.

"You have to make sacrifices for your team. What do you think I would do?"

This was the man who took the yellow against Juventus that ruled him out of a Champions League final. He knows the price of victory.

The problem, of course, is that Keane the coach is working with players that are unable to reach the heights which he scaled.

Belfast Telegraph