Belfast Telegraph

Roy Keane furious with Stephen Ward but wants to clear the air with Harry Arter

By Daniel McDonnell

Martin O’Neill says that Roy Keane is ready to instigate reconciliation talks with Harry Arter in a bid to clear up the furore created by his absence from the Republic of Ireland squad.

And the Irish boss hinted that his No.2 is willing to admit that he overstepped the mark in the angry exchange which led to Arter’s decision to take a break from the international game.

The leaking of a WhatsApp audio message where Republic defender Stephen Ward went into detail on his version of Keane’s summer row with Arter and Jonathan Walters has again blown up an issue that O’Neill had tried to put to bed last week.

After the issue dominated his pre-match press conference ahead of the Republic’s friendly with Poland, O’Neill revealed that Keane was prepared to speak to Arter.

“I think there might be a bit of a reconciliation between Roy and Harry. Certainly, Roy is up for that,” said O’Neill, who was then asked if there was now a view that Keane went too far in his outburst at the midfielder,which was related to him sitting out training due to an injury.

“That is a fair summation of it. I think it (reconciliation) could happen, and if it doesn’t... I think genuinely that it can happen. Roy is up for it, and the point you make is valid.”

O’Neill was forced to address the issue after a recording that Ward sent to close friends on messaging service WhatsApp entered the public domain yesterday and was widely circulated.

It’s believed that the message was leaked out of a group containing Ward and a handful of old friends.

The Ulsterman said that the Burnley player had been “betrayed” and had apologised to both the manager and Keane.

It is understood that Keane was furious when he learned of the recording’s existence and contacted Ward immediately — the player is back at Burnley receiving treatment on an injury he picked up in the 4-1 loss to Wales.

O’Neill also spoke with the experienced left-back in an attempt to ascertain what had happened.

Ward was not a member of the squad for the summer gathering and O’Neill says the player’s version of events does not tally with Keane’s, although he did not specify the differences.

But the Irish boss said that Ward would be welcomed back into the squad for next month, much as he is in the bad books for now.

“Do I have sympathy or empathy for a 33-year old who has known about social media for a lengthy time and says he’s just telling it to a crowd of mates? Today… probably not. Tomorrow… probably not also,” said O’Neill.

However, he acknowledged that Keane will have to speak publicly about his role in the episode.

Ward’s audio alleged that Keane had called Arter a “p****” and a “c***” who didn’t want to train, with the tirade continuing as the player got up off a treatment table and walked down a corridor.

It is also claimed that Walters invited Keane to his hotel room in Paris with a view to sorting out their differences, but the No.2 turned down the request via a text message.

O’Neill again emphatically denied that the summer disharmony had anything to do with Declan Rice’s decision to stall on his Irish future.

The loss of Seamus Coleman with a foot injury had already upset O’Neill’s plans for tonight.

The manager had already admitted his squad was “decimated” for Thursday’s defeat in Cardiff, so the loss of his skipper, Ward and Walters has further depleted his options.

Poland are a superior side with home advantage, fresh from a promising draw in Italy over the weekend.

It would be an achievement to come away from Wroclaw with a positive result, yet it will not really count as credit in the bank if things go badly next month.

O’Neill gave a positive mention to former Derry City man Ronan Curtis, who has been drafted up from the Under-21 squad and is a rarity — an Irish striker in form.

“We have brought a young fellow in who has scored a few goals for Portsmouth — who, with respect, are third tier — but he’s making a charge and it is good to see that he is doing well,” said O’Neill. “It will be a difficult evening for us, but we want to try to get back to our strengths as much as we possibly can.

“I’d like to make things as difficult as we can for Poland. We’re missing a couple, but even so we should still do better.”

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