Harry Arter has made himself unavailable for Ireland’s Nations League opener against Wales on Thursday, as the fallout from his disagreement with Roy Keane intensifies.
Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, admitted last week that his assistant Keane was involved in an altercation with Arter and fellow player Jon Walters in camp, ahead of the friendly against USA in June.
Arter, who was carrying an injury at the time and played only the last eight minutes as a substitute, pulled out of the latest provisional squad before he lined out for his on-loan club, Cardiff City in yesterday’s Premier League match against Arsenal.
O’Neill will address the unexpected news today when his squad have their first training session in Dublin, but Arter’s absence is not injury related.
Walters, who had a previous falling-out with Keane in 2010 when they worked together at Ipswich Town, refused to discuss the spat on Friday.
The striker, back at Ipswich on loan, and who turns 35 later this month, is set to lead the line for Ireland in Cardiff, with Shane Long all but ruled out of the double-header (which includes a friendly in Poland tomorrow week) by his club boss, Southampton’s Mark Hughes.
“He’s hobbling around and will likely miss the internationals,” Hughes said about the foot problem that forced Long off an hour into Saturday’s win at Crystal Palace.
Arter’s refusal to report for duty, less than a week after Declan Rice also decided to pause his international career, casts a shadow over preparations for Ireland’s first competitive fixture since last November’s World Cup play-off pasting by Denmark.
O’Neill attributed Rice’s decision to interest from his homeland of England, which Gareth Southgate validated by confirming he’d spoken to the West Ham United teen, but the FAI were also forced over the weekend to deny any other factors were at play.
I’m not denying there hasn’t been altercations,” O’Neill said about the bust-up featuring Arter. “But the situation has definitely been defused and it’s just part of things.
Both Arter and Rice are fully fit and were part of their first-team squads at the weekend — Arter played the full 90 minutes yesterday, while Rice was an unused substitute.
The 19-year-old paused his international career just as he would have been tied permanently to Ireland this week.
All of the underage caps he earned in Uefa qualifiers, at U17, U19 and U21 level, coupled with the three friendly appearances for the seniors since March, still allow the Londoner to switch allegiance to England.
“I think it’s fair to say I have spoken with Declan, but I have not promised anything, because I don’t think that’s right,” Southgate said.
“It would be easy, whether you are with club or national association, to promise people things.
“However, I can’t promise players who were with us at the World Cup that they will be involved in six months’ time. So why would I promise that to a young player?”