Belfast Telegraph

I'm ready to sort out mess: Kennedy

By Mark McIntosh

Raymond Kennedy last night insisted he will not shirk his responsibilities after the first major incident hit is presidency.

Northern Ireland stars Keith Gillespie and George McCartney were involved in a bust-up on board a flight from Reykjavik to London yesterday morning after Wednesday night's last-gasp defeat to Iceland.

Gillespie's own goal a minute from time made it a miserable week for Nigel Worthington's side and reports of a public row between two very experienced players have sparked an IFA investigation.

Kennedy, who was elected as President in succession to Jim Boyce in June, will get to work this morning to find out who was at fault and why such an incident took place.

"We will deal with this incident very quickly and I expect to speak to Nigel Worthington about it first thing on Friday," said Kennedy.

" I realise I am in a new role now and I will not be shirking my responsibilities when something like this happens.

"It really was the final straw from what was a terrible trip with two defeats when we all expected so much more.

"I didn't know of the incident until the plane I was on landed in Glasgow and to say I was gutted and surprised would be an understatement.

"You don't expect something like this to happen at any level of football, never mind after an international."

Kennedy has also insisted team morale will not suffer as a consequence of the spat.

He added: "This sort of thing has happened before but we will investigate to see just how serious it was.

"It's not good for anyone but we can't let this take away from the hard work done by the team and the IFA in recent years.

" From time to time in football players do fall out and things are said in the heat of the moment but we will have to find out if it has been more than that.

"We have to remember the players were cooped up in hotels for eight days and there was very little for them to do.

" Not for one second am I using that as an excuse but it has to be taken into account.

"I will keep an open mind on the entire issue however until I have spoken to all of the relevant people.

"We are taking the incident very seriously and I would like to think we can get to the bottom of things and speak to the players within the next few days.

"The defeats were bad enough but this really has left a bad taste in the mouth and as an association we will not stand for it if it does prove to be serious."

Meanwhile, Lawrie Sanchez has urged his former Northern Ireland stars to believe they can still make it to Euro 2008 despite the two defeats.

He said: "I knew they'd be difficult games, from the very fact that we lost to Iceland in the first qualifier.

"But I thought the team had got past the stage of struggling in Iceland away.

"To be fair the performances were decent but it was about turning chances into goals.

"The goals that were conceded were unfortunate to say the least.

"It's an uphill task now but we've beaten Sweden and Spain before and if we do the same we'll qualify. Win the last three games and we're there. Everything is still alive until that is no longer available."

Belfast Telegraph


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