Snippets of last night’s display in Poland offered encouragement for Ireland’s Nations League rescue mission yet the questions about Martin O’Neill’s leadership won’t dissipate, writes
This friendly between two understrength sides was always going to be of limited value and apart from a debut goal for Aidan O’Brien there was little that can be deemed relevant for when the real fare resumes next month with a home double-header against Denmark and Wales.
It’s not just that the Derryman will have won just one game in 12 months, the late friendly victory over USA, by the time the squad reconvene, it’s his handling of the Harry Arter row which lingers most.
It remains to be seen whether the midfielder is sufficiently endeared by Keane’s sincerity if, as O’Neill has suggested, peace talks are held. For a player who has suffered his fair share of personal anguish over the past two years to have his commitment to the cause questioned is a serious matter.
Liam Brady, albeit no fan of Keane, sympathised with Arter’s plight yesterday, confirming he too would have downed tools resulting from such a vicious attack.
What was definitely disconcerting in the run-up to last night’s limp friendly was the choice of David Meyler flanking him at the pre-match conference.
Usually the companion ends up starting the game but the Corkman was once again left on the bench.
Within minutes of the latest twist to the Arter case being put to O’Neill, he was trying to contextualise by citing a training ground row with Meyler.
Only this was one of those things “that happen all the time”.
The midfielder recruited to Sunderland by Keane was happy to play along with the charade, sheepishly outlining how he deserved to be rebuked for sulking at being left out in Cardiff.
This was a completely different situation to Walters or Arter. Both shipped personal flak, Walters feeling the need to angrily confront his former Ipswich Town boss and Arter taking an alternative approach by staying at home. They were incomparable incidents to one that certainly doesn’t happen all the time.
The stunt didn’t work, leaving the kernel of the matter resting at why O’Neill didn’t take stern action against his sidekick in May.
Now that the public are aware of the eruption, and the consequences, does the man paid €40,000 per week have the compulsion to do so retrospectively in order to remove the problem which continues to hamper him and his players? We won’t hold our breath.