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I hug people all the time, says Republic of Ireland coach Roy Keane


Defender Stephen Ward is a doubt for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 clash with France on Sunday

Defender Stephen Ward is a doubt for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 clash with France on Sunday

Defender Stephen Ward is a doubt for the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 clash with France on Sunday

Roy Keane has vowed to carry on hugging as the Republic of Ireland gear up for their Euro 2016 showdown with hosts France.

The 44-year-old assistant manager was pictured in a touchline embrace with Ireland boss Martin O'Neill at the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille on Wednesday night after their players had booked a place in the last 16 with a 1-0 victory over Italy.

Those images were reproduced all over Europe, much to the consternation of the former Republic and Manchester United skipper, who insists he hugs people all the time.

Speaking at Ireland's Versailles training base on Friday afternoon, Keane said: "I don't think you can win. People either think you are too grumpy or you are too happy, I can't seem to find that line in between, you know?

"After the game, what are you going to do? Everyone was hugging each other, it was fantastic and I'd like to think if we get a win against France, we'll be doing exactly the same.

"There's a good spirit amongst everybody and yes, I enjoy working with the manager, it's fantastic and long may it continue. It's just a normal reaction when you win a big game of football. I've done it throughout my career and I will continue to do it.

"It's just a bit silly that everyone seems to be making a big song and dance about it. You must have very, very little to write about, you must be very bored just to make a song and dance about that.

"I'm always hugging people, just usually, there's not people around. I'm always hugging my dogs, but no one seems to bother about that. Family, friends...yes, you do. We were happy."

Keane and O'Neill have guided their side into the knock-out stage of a European Championship - the first time an Ireland side has achieved the feat - less than two-and-a-half years after taking charge.

They enjoy a close working relationship, but that does not extend much further when they head back from international duty.

Keane said: "The manager has made it clear a number of times: we are actually not that close.

"We don't keep in touch, we don't go for meals together, but we certainly have a good professional working relationship where we obviously have lots of respect for each other, and we both enjoyed the game."

Like Northern Ireland and Iceland, the Republic have taken some by surprise by making it out of their group, but Keane is adamant that their progression should not have come as a shock.

He said: "To me, there have been no real surprises. The teams that have done well, I thought, had a chance of getting out of their groups.

"The Icelands and ourselves - maybe if later in the competition we're still in it, you go maybe yeah (it is a surprise), but in terms of getting out of the group and where the teams are now, I don't think there have been any real surprises or shocks. I think it's been expected and these teams have turned up.

"People talk about (Northern Ireland) and Wales - they've got good players. People seem surprised by Iceland, but if you do your homework on Iceland, it's no surprise.

"They've got a good team, a strong team, good mentality, physically very strong - look at their qualifying campaign."

The clash with France has inevitably rekindled memories of the last time the sides met in November 2009 when Thierry Henry's handball denied Ireland a trip to the World Cup finals, although Keane, who confirmed full-back Stephen Ward remains a doubt for the game with an ankle problem, was refusing to be drawn into talk of a revenge mission.

Asked about that night by a French journalist, he replied: "We don't have that mentality. Revenge doesn't come into it."