At the Ireland team hotel in Portmarnock yesterday, Roy Keane was asked by a television reporter if he was prepared to discuss the well-publicised incident in the team hotel last Wednesday, in which the Assistant Manager had a confrontation with Irish fan Frank Gillespie.
In response to the question, Keane said, “No, I’m not.” Asked if it had been a distraction, he replied, with equal brevity, “no”.
And there the matter lay until after the broadcast reporters, as is the usual practice at FAI press conferences, had left the room so that Keane could field questions from the daily print journalists who were present.
For the best part of 20 minutes, the ensuing question and answer session dealt with matters concerning the Irish team before, just as FAI Head of Communications Peter Sherrard was about to bring the session to a close, one reporter sought to bring up the hotel incident again, his line of questioning provoking an angry response from Keane. The following is a verbatim transcript of the exchange which followed.
- Journalist 1: Sorry, Roy, I want to ask this because it was touched upon earlier. I expect to get the stare but I’m going to ask anyway. Martin was asked before the game about the incident — he said it was a distraction and he moved on. I’m just thinking, in the last six months, I’d like your thoughts on this, between the Celtic link, the Villa link, the book situation and the incident last week.
- Roy Keane (interrupts): I’m not going to give you any comment on that...why would you think I have to give you an opinion on everything? Do you think you’ve a right to sit there and ask me anything you want and get an answer? I think I’ve been more than fair.
- Journalist 1: You have.
- Keane: Yeah.
- Reporter 1: My point is that Martin is being asked about distractions. Has he had enough of those distractions?
- Keane: What are you asking me for? What are you talking about? What distractions? Can I do anything about the Celtic stuff?
- Journalist 1: Yeah, the Celtic and Villa.
- Keane: Can I do anything about them things that come up? If I get approached about a job and I’m upfront with the manager and the media, do you want me to … how is that a distraction? What can I do about that? You’re making out I’m bringing all these distractions on.
- Journalist 1: So it just happens, it’s just coincidence these things happen.
- Keane: Well, if a club approaches me, these things just happen, yeah. The book. How is the book connected...do you think the book is a distraction to a group of professional people? Do me a favour. And then people all writing about the incident the other night. Lies. And people got pals, and are talking to them. So I’ve got to justify all that to you? And you all sit there and think I’ve got to answer to everything? Who the hell do you think you are? I’ve got to answer to you? No I don’t.
- Journalist 1: Not to everything, no. It’s a press conference.
- Keane: I answer to the FAI and Martin and if we don’t get the results, I’ll be gone and you won’t lose a minute’s sleep, so don’t worry about distractions. You’re the ones who write about the distractions.
- Journalist 1: We write about them because it seemed to be an obvious thing to write about. There was an incident, so we had to write about it.
- Keane: Exactly, yeah. But you’re on about Celtic and Aston Villa, what do you want me to do about them? If Celtic approached me, what did you want me to say? Ye couldn’t get enough of it.
- Journalist 1: I’m not denying that.
- Keane: Of course. So what could I do about the Celtic situation?
- Journalist 1: I don’t know. Martin brought it-
- Keane [interrupts]: Incidents, what other incidents. The book? Do you think that was a distraction? The book. Did you think the book was a distraction? An agreement was made six months before it was out.
- Journalist 1: Would you have liked your assistant manager to be bringing out a book before a match?
- FAI’s Peter Sherrard: We’ll leave it there, thanks
- Keane: You’ve asked Martin. What’s he said? You’re asking me what Martin O’Neill might think? I don’t know.
- Journalist 1: I’m thinking has he had enough of these.
- Keane: Ask him. What are you asking me for? Go and see him in the lobby. You’re not brave enough. Why don’t you ask him? You’re not brave enough to ask him...
- Journalist 1: I am brave enough. We’ll ask him. I don’t have access.
- FAI press officer: You’ll see him tomorrow. You can ask him tomorrow if you want.
- Keane: What are you asking me about what Martin O’Neill might be thinking? Why don’t you ask Martin? What if we qualify? Do you think it’ll be a distraction? Do you think it was all a distraction from the result the other night?
- Journalist: I don’t know. It was the build-up for the 24 hours before the game. Everyone was talking about it.
- Keane: What was the problem with that? What was the problem with the build-up to this game?
- Journalist: We were all talking about it..
- Keane: Talking about what? Talking about something you don’t have a clue about. Everyone writing lies again. The usual nonsense. This happening, that happening. I’m turning down to...
- Journalist 2: Roy can I just ask about one final thing? You said you wouldn’t talk about what happened with Frank the other night.
- Keane: Frank. Do you know him?
- Journalist 2: I do know him.
- Keane: Of course you do. You know him well, yeah, you know him well? You know Mick McCarthy well, don’t you?
- FAI press officer: Right, listen, Roy has given you his time, we’ll leave it there
- Journalist 2 [Continuing]: Yes, I do know him well.
- Keane: You know Frank well don’t you? You know Frank well. Exactly.”
Press conference ends.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved