Jason McAteer: Roy Keane’s hardman persona just a media act

If the hairdryer has to be administered at half-time in the Aviva tonight, it’s tempting to assume it will come courtesy of Roy Keane.

Not necessarily so, according to former team-mate Jason McAteer. Ireland’s assistant manager is famous for his ferocious temper but McAteer reckons the “hard-man persona” is an act put on for the benefit of the media.

“What you see on the telly when he’s doing press conferences, that’s his character. He’s not like that really,” McAteer said.

“Does he play a role? I think he does... well I know he does. He can play it to the media and the public and he has this hard-man persona. But he has got a sense of humour and he is funny when he wants to be.

“Is he softer in the dressing room? Very much so. He will get annoyed, but he’d be a lot softer than you’d think.”

Not that he wasn’t prone to the odd volcanic outburst, of course. Speaking on Goals On Sunday alongside former Ireland team-mate Gary Kelly, McAteer recalled Keane’s fury after a 2-0 lead away to the Netherlands had been squandered in a World Cup qualifier 15 years ago.

“I remember we went to Holland in the first game of the campaign, went 2-0 up and ended up drawing 2-2. We were celebrating it as a great result, he was fuming we gave the goals away.”

McAteer has had his differences with Keane but believes the former Manchester United skipper and Martin O’Neill are a good combination. He said: “Martin’s tactically very astute, he knows what he’s doing. He sets teams up differently. Roy’s demanding, he wants you to reach the heights he demands. He demands and it brings the best out of you.”

Recalling his time as an Ireland player, McAteer joked the 1994 World Cup was like “being away with 22 of your mates, playing footy and being on a stag”.

He believes Ireland can get to France next year but warned the away goal from Friday’s first leg presents its own psychological challenge.

“I always find it tricky when you’ve got an away goal and it’s a draw. Sometimes, you think we’re going to hold on to it and maybe try and play for a draw, but I think the lads — at home — have got to feed off the atmosphere, there’s no better place to play.”

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