Keane scathing of Belarus performance: ‘Lads happy to be fringe players’

Keane scathing of Belarus performance: ‘Lads happy to be fringe players’
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill, left, with assistant manager Roy Keane during squad training in Fota Island Resort, Fota Island, Cork. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

The morning after the Ireland Euro 2016 squad was finalised, attention has immediately turned towards the starting team that will face Sweden on June 13, writes Stephen Barry.

Roy Keane sounded the alarm over the change in tone with a verbal dressing down of the performance against Belarus last night.

Keane was particularly chastising of the fringe players, who he believes settled for a squad place and didn’t do anything to force their way into the first team.

“Whatever about it being down in Cork city, and the pitch, and it was sunny – forget that. You’re playing international football. You’re playing international football,” said Keane, letting that repetition hang in the still air a second before continuing.

“Control the bloody ball. Pass it and move to your mates. And if you lose it, run back – and run back like you care.

“A player’s job is to give a manager a headache. Whether you’re in the starting eleven to say, ‘listen, you’ve got to pick me every week, I’m the main guy, I run training, I do this, I’m organised.’

“There’s other lads who’d be fringe players and would be happy to be fringe players. They don’t want the responsibility of being in the starting eleven. They’ll talk about it but they won’t actually do it when they get opportunities like they did last night, they’ll just go, ‘maybe I don’t want to be in the starting eleven’. Because there’s pressure with that.”

However, Keane isn’t worried that the performance will be repeated against Sweden.

“We’ll be better than that. Don’t worry,” he said, assuredly.

Why so?

“Well, we might have players who didn’t play last night on the pitch. We’ll have a stronger team out. It’s simple.”

After the match Roy Keane called “a reality check for one or two players who maybe thought they were good players”, he has dismissed the potential excuses for under-performing.

Keane struck out at a variety of excuses attached to players’ form, including those carrying ‘knocks’.

“Whatever about excuses, ‘I’ve not played much football - blah, blah, blah - I’m carrying knocks’, I’m worried when players aren’t carrying knocks.

“You’re supposed to carry knocks because you’re supposed to tackle people. You’re supposed to hit people at pace, and hit them hard. It’s part of the game. It’s not chess we’re playing.

“If you get a knock, you don’t need to go for a scan, or take painkillers, or have two days’ recovery, or matchday minus two – I need to sit in the pool for an hour and a half. It’s a man’s game we’re playing, believe it or not.”

Keane wasn’t having any excuses about lack of playing time either.

When asked about Jeff Hendrick and Daryl Murphy, who both started the two play-off games against Bosnia, not playing much football in recent months, Keane replied, “You can tell.

“If you’re standing still in this game, you’re going backwards. So the two players mentioned have got to up the ante.

“Sometimes we fall into making excuses for players, ‘oh, they’ve not played much football’, but they’re still training. You’re still controlling the ball. You still have to run. You can still physically get in decent shape. You can lack match sharpness and we’ll forgive a player for that, but you’ve got to get yourself in a good state.”

In commenting on Aiden McGeady’s performance, Keane’s response was cutting: “I think he can do a lot better but maybe that's the story of Aiden’s career.”

Today’s training session was played out in splendid morning sunshine at Fota Island and attended by 13 players – the newly announced squad members who didn’t make the starting XI last night, excluding the injured Robbie Keane, plus Callum O’Dowda.

Despite missing out on the final cut, the Oxford winger has stayed on with the 23-man squad after making his debut for the Boys in Green.

James McCarthy, once again, took a limited part in the session, while the team that started against Belarus last night did a recovery session.

Keane described the game as not a particularly demanding clash.

The Ireland assistant manager was also asked for his final thoughts on the squad’s preparation moving forward.

“Well I wanted to kill a few of them last night,” Keane replies with a grin, “so I’ve moved on from that.

“They need to push themselves – that doesn’t come from the coaches. That comes from good players, good pros. We trained this morning, the Glen Whelans, the Jon Walters, the Seamus Colemans – I didn’t have to push any of them this morning.

“Strange isn’t it.”

You can listen to the full audio at RedFM.

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